After the curtain fell on "Sleeping Beauty" Saturday at the O'Shaughnessy, beyond the applause from the opening night audience, the young dancers of Metropolitan Ballet could be heard behind the curtain, shouting cheers of joy.
It was a sweet moment, indicative of the sense of accomplishment that comes after months of hard work, culminating in a showcase for such a large audience. Because while the two-night production headlined star ballerina Deise Mendonça, this show was all about the student dancers who train with Metropolitan Ballet's academy, and were all featured prominently with solos and group scenes that showed off their skills they have developed.
Mendonça certainly has a prestigious career. Besides her stint as a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars," she was a principal dancer with the Bolshoi company in Brazil, has danced with acclaimed companies in Milan, Rio de Janeiro and Santiago, and currently performs with State Street Ballet in Santa Barbara, Calif.
She performed the role of Aurora with poise and grace, but ended up getting upstaged by the young cast, who put their hearts and souls into every moment.
There was a stumble here and there, and one of them lost their balance, but those were the most compelling moments, showing the edge of their abilities. Everything up until that moment of faltering was the very best they could do. There's something very beautiful about witnessing that vulnerability.
Tchaikovsky's version of "Sleeping Beauty" is rather short on drama.
Conflicts with the evil fairy Carabosse, played by adult dancer Jessica Fuller, were resolved quickly. Fuller, who trained at Metropolitan Ballet and teaches in the academy, lacked the stage presence needed for the show's key antagonist, but her band of cute evil minions, played by the smallest dancers, was one of the show's most endearing moments.
The quick storytelling left ample room for the extended court scenes. There, various fairies or members of the court presented solo dances for the king and queen's benefit.
Sure, at times it felt like watching a dance recital, but one with high production values, accompanied by the live orchestration of the Kenwood Symphony Orchestra, a volunteer group that likewise offered a perfectly satisfying performance of the classic work.
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis writer.