Lindsay Fischer’s forthcoming book, to be published by Inglewood Press, discusses at length a number of ballets. As The Sleeping Beauty is currently being produced by the National Ballet of Canada, some comments from Fischer seem timely.
He discusses the profound effect Rudolf Nureyev had in developing the National Ballet’s interpretation, particularly regarding the two main characters, Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund. For example, Nureyev’s “addition of moments of contact between the Princess and each of her four suitors during her variation … reminds us that it is Aurora who is choosing a husband, not a King who is giving away a chattel. Compare this, for example, with the Prince in Swan Lake, who has a choice of multiple brides, all assiduously pimped by their male escorts.” Later, discussing the role Nureyev himself danced in the production, Fischer notes, “Part of Nureyev’s insight into Aurora’s character is that he understood that for her to be a fully independent woman, Florimund, the Prince who will eventually break the sleeping spell and earn the right to ask for her hand, must be a fully independent man.”
Fischer goes on to explore the themes of independence and gender equality as he discusses the dance between Aurora and Florimund. “The pas de deux that celebrates the union of these two remarkable revolutionaries is indeed the ‘Awakening to Joy’ described in critical discussion of the ballet, but it is also a re-statement of the idea that Aurora has not married because she needs to, but because she has met a man who is not threatened by her independence.” The pas de deux begins with a tenuously supported backbend that requires flexibility, strength and courage. “In The Sleeping Beauty, this step says, ‘I can take risks and endure difficulty all on my own.’ When the Prince steps in behind to support Aurora, it says, ‘Yes, but together we can share the risk, and enjoy the reward’.”