The world premiere of Sleeping Beauty Dreams (SBD) at the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arscht Center turned out to be an unusual cultural event for the Sun Capital of the World during the Art Basel week and the annual “Nutcracker” season.For the first time Miami assumed the role of a host for a premiere of a show that combines our two biggest December passions – art and ballet. On December 7, 2018 SBD tried its luck with us before going to New York and if the reception of the audience on the opening night can be used as a forecast, the show is destined for success.
SBD is an astonishing visual production that aroused anticipation and kept people in suspense, many of whom arrived at the theater motivated by false expectations. The production has nothing to do with the classical Sleeping Beauty ballet by Tchaikovsky and Petipa, the only connection is the supposed dreams of the princess during her 100 years of sleep. The characters of Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes are not the same Princess Aurora and Prince Désiré, but just a Princess and a Prince. SBD is a meticulously choreographed staging but with very little dancing.
It takes a few minutes to overcome the confusion and dismay due to the absence of dance, but once you get over it, SBD starts hypnotizing you thanks to its spectacular imagery and the determination of the princess, who seems to have been through some traumatizing experiences (dreams are mostly an activation of the memory) resembling the original story written by Giambattista Basile in 1634.
Before Perrault, Grimm brothers, Vsevolozhsky and Petipa (co-authors of the original ballet script) and Disney wrote their fairy tale, Basile’s story included unpalatable things like the rape of a sleeping woman who, without ever waking up, gives birth to two children, the return of the rapist King, who wants to have her as his lover, a wife of the King trying to feed her own children to the husband and an assassination attempt of the mother. It is unlikely that the delicate princesses of Perrault, Grimm brothers, Vsevolozhsky, Petipa and Disney had the nightmares on intense colors of the combative princess of Rem Hass, the creator and Director of SBD.
Sleeping Beauty Dreams is a multidisciplinary project that shares DNA of dark fantasy works popularized by video games offering a type of terror that is more aesthetic than dramatic.
According to the program notes, in the First Act the princess begins her journey through the world of dreams where three demons appear: those of Fear, Violence and Greed. She is victorious when facing the three, only to find herself surrounded by more demons that the prince helps her to win over in his first appearance. After he leaves, the princess falls back asleep. In the Second Act (the better one of the two) three temptations appear in the form of passionate lovers, sweet dreams and fanatics. The princess erupts in fury and turns into the Goddess of Destruction, who in her rage seems to pay no attention to the return of the prince. The prince manages to kiss her, the storm subsides, the princess wakes up.
Sleeping Beauty Dreams is a work that imposes a physical execution of iron drawing from a dancer who cemented her fame as a luminous emancipated muse.
SBD is a multidisciplinary project that shares DNA of dark fantasy works popularized by video games offering a type of terror that is more aesthetic than dramatic. The final result also works as a subversive exercise in transgressing the rules of the rose-tinted reality that we have accepted for the story of Sleeping Beauty. Rem Hass understands, at least intuitively, that in today’s world shaped by #MeToo movement the ideas of a “sleepy beautiful thing” waiting to be taken by a man or a symbolic kiss that condemns a woman to domestic servitude are outdated. The story ends with the prince disappearing and the princess alone ready to face and enjoy her new life.
The key to the communicative effectiveness of Rem Hass’s version lies in the fact that the protagonist is not an innocent princess but a comatose woman who dreams and struggles to survive. There is no grand pas de deux for the always attractive Vishneva and Gomes, the duet they perform is just a beautiful brush. This may scare some away, but their exploration of a fresh aspect of the story with the help of music, art, dance and cutting-edge technology make SBD a non-negligible artistic achievement.
The production features choreographer Edward Clug, EDM composer Thijs De Vlieger of NOISIA, digital designer Tobias Gremmler, the creator of the grotesque avatars that imitate, reflect and enrich Vishneva’s own movements, costume designer Bart Hess with futuristic suits with sensors and light artist Laurent Fort. The management and design of the production is by Nick Assunto, the digital avatar technology is by Fuse Factory, the design and programming of the lights is by Luis Pastor. In the credits, Perception Neuron, Noitom, L-Acoustics, Disguise, BlackTrax and Varilite are included as Technology Associates. The names of the substitute dancers Mi Deng and Nick Palmquist and the ten members of the dance corps in charge of assuming the roles of good and bad spirits, lovers and fanatics are also included.
We must recognize and admire Diana Vishneva’s work. Without the glamorous ambience and the descriptive music of a classical ballet with argument conceived as a stellar vehicle for a star, she gives herself completely to the unhurried stroke of poses and movements that has been established thinking about the limitations of the 3D digital avatars projected on the stage in real time instead of giving her the opportunity to gesticulate and create a detailed characterization. It is a work that imposes a physical execution of iron drawing from a dancer who cemented her fame as a luminous emancipated muse.
Since its inception, dance has been associated with the worship of divinity and it hasn’t lost its ability to create mythical figures. Vishneva’s Avatars become the bodily manifestation of the dancer as deity of the contemporary dance. It is a moving experience to see Vishneva delivering her body and soul to the task of conquering a new and different creative territory. If watching Vishneva in SBD makes you feel that you are witnessing something special, it’s because you are witnessing something special. It’s that simple.
The article was translated from the original review published in Spanish by ARTBURST