Sleeping Beauty – drugs, rebellion, love, revenge

Wonderful Review: Nederlands Dans Theater’s Sleeping Beauty by Mats Ek


Princess Aurora got herself a heroin addiction! Yes that’s right, gone is the sweetness, frills and innocence. Aurora is a moody rebellious teenager with a terrible attitude and despairing parents, she likes the bad boys and falls into the dark side of life.

This extreme reinterpretation by acclaimed choreographer Mats Ek delves Sleeping Beauty into a paradoxical and slightly crazy world filled with an incredible cast of dancers performing Ek’s radical movements to Tchaikovsky’s enchanting music.

Ema Yuasa as Princess Aurora is full of character with well crafted edgy and bold movements delivered with both freedom and precision, a balance she deftly holds on her journey through this dramatic and confronting world.  Ema’s portrayal of Aurora’s love of drugs is intense and compelling as she literally falls and floats in her high and violently shakes when pricked by the heroin needle.

Nederlands Dans Theater's Sleeping Beauty
Nederlands Dans Theater’s Sleeping Beauty

Ek’s choreography is high energy and demanding intertwining intense and emotional duets. Ek’s is also incredibly funny and the four fairies bring humour into this often beautifully bizarre world where eggs are born and cuddled, cars are driven across the stage, phones ring and people scream. There’s even a french chef giving a lesson on cooking a fish! Yes you read correctly, a cooking lesson half way through!

Each scene is larger than life, each moment detailed, each movement minutely choreographed. It is overwhelming in a totally satisfying way as you’re engulfed and transfixed by the incredible dancers. I was lucky enough to watch the rehearsal of Sleeping Beauty at Nederlands Dans Theater’s studio in The Hague, Holland. And to see the final production on stage was amazing.  I watched as Ema and Bastien Zorzetto rehearsed their pas de deux, where the ballet master worked on the fall of an arm, the sweep of a hand, the look exchanged between the two. Bastien is raw and masculine yet tender and emotional, and its quite an indulgence to watch him dance as he masterfully throws himself into the role.

Nederlands Dans Theater's Sleeping Beauty
Nederlands Dans Theater’s Sleeping Beauty

Ema also rehearsed with her Prince, the statuesque and talented Marne van Opstal, the moment where he kisses her to life is expectantly sweet until Aurora wipes her mouth in disgust and practically runs for her life. But throughout their pas de deux Aurora begins to soften and she falls in love with her Prince.  The moment rehearsed in the studio is perfected on stage by Marne who is regal and elegant.

There is so much to love about this production, it’s quirky, unique, intelligent, challenging and the entire cast gives an outstanding performance. NDT is the perfect company for performing Mats Ek’s Sleeping Beauty as their contemporary movement and world class dancers are simply sensational!

Beg, borrow, steal a ticket for performances in Holland until 29 November: book here

Reviewed at the Carre Theater in Amsterdam on 18 October.

by Savannah Saunders