This Day in the Arts — January 16 in Ballet History

Abgerissene Tage eines KalendersToday we’re looking back to 1890, to the premiere performance of Tchaikovsky’s brilliant ballet The Sleeping Beauty. It was first performed in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the Mariinsky Theatre on January 16, 1890 (some sources said January 15). Although by his own admission it took Tchaikovsky a while to actually get to the writing of the music, he delighted in the project, and this was yet another opportunity for him to meld ballet and symphony in a way that became one of his trademarks. To read some of his own words about this ballet, scroll past the lists of parts in this link from Tchaikovsky Research for an excellent brief essay.

Not only was the composer one of the greats, but the choreographer, Marius Petipa, was renowned for his work as well. In fact, his choreography for this ballet still influences choreographers today. Quoting from The Sleeping Beauty History in this link from the Houston Ballet, “Balanchine, Ashton, and Kenneth MacMillan all proclaim their debt to the inventions of Petipa.”

It will likely not surprise you to learn that after reading so much about this ballet, I was eager to see it. Soon, if possible. In one of those amazingly serendipitous occurrences that surprises a person every now and then, when I went to the website of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet on the off chance that they might be staging The Sleeping Beauty this season, I discovered that not only are they doing so, but they’re bringing it to my city on a tour this March. I am, needless to say, delighted. (Note that the RWB lists Petipa as choreographer!)

In the comments, I’d love to hear about your experiences with ballet — or with serendipity.

8 thoughts on “This Day in the Arts — January 16 in Ballet History”

  1. How splendid that Sleeping Beauty is being performed this March in Regina! Woot.

    I went to my first ballet only a few years ago – the Monte Carlo ballet – absolutely enchanting modern ballet performance – what creative athletes!

    1. I was absolutely delighted — and amazed — that RWB is performing this very ballet here! I used to go to Royal Winnipeg Ballet performances occasionally when I lived in Winnipeg (30 years ago now!) and also saw the Sadlers Wells Ballet there when that company was on tour. Wonderful! (My small claim to fame when I lived in Winnipeg was that I had the same hair stylist as the principal ballerina of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Not much of a claim to fame, but it made me feel special!)

  2. I grew up dancing, a sport my sister followed me into, so I’m biased, but I don’t know of anything that’s as beautiful as ballet. And it’s hard work! A lot of people don’t realize how much strength, and work, and training goes into putting on a ballet, and putting it on well! I’m glad you’re writing about ballet, and I’m glad you’re seeing one, Beth! Hope you enjoy it! I’m sure it will be amazing!

    1. Anjelica! Delighted to see you here. Ballet is an amazingly lovely art form, and yes, I can see how much athleticism, strength, hard work (and pain!) is involved. We don’t have a professional ballet company here, although of course there are ballet classes for kids (the closest I got to ballet class was being asked to be the pianist for classes, but my schedule didn’t allow it.) So when a touring company comes to the city, it’s a true joy.

  3. Lovely post about the ballet. I’m glad that you and Joanna may have the opportunity to see this ballet. I was fortunate to be exposed to the ballet as a child/teen. My mother was a professional dancer and passed on her passion to my sister and I. Although I didn’t study dance until later, and I saw even many productions as an adult. I love all forms of this particular artform. I even love the more contemporary companies. An art with so much beauty and grace.

  4. Ooh what fun! Enjoy it, Beth! The only ballet I can remember going to (though there may have been others) was The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center when I was little. But ballet is one of those things that I find so beautiful and inspiring – you watch people dance like that and want to be able to do that too! (Though there’s not much hope in my case – you may have noticed my picture next to “graceless” in the dictionary :))

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