A beauty of a ballet

It was impressive that the young dancers onstage for A&A Ballet’s May 4th performance of“Sleeping Beauty” were not thrown off by a cell phone ringing throughout the first half.

A stage manager solved that problem after intermission by asking audience members to turn off their phones completely, not just set them to silent. That was because the cell phones were interfering with the wireless systems in the Studebaker Theater, he said.

Whether that was true or not, it resolved the issue of the rude audience member so the rest of us were able to fully focus on the beauty onstage.

The matinee performance of the A&A Ballet featured a multi-cultural and multi-generational cast of impressive ballerinas, including some tiny tots who couldn’t have been cuter in their sheep costumes.

Jasmine Wheeler, as the evil Carabosse, stole the show. (Olivia Mitchell in the evening performance.) Wheeler’s enthusiastic performance was equal parts acting and athleticism as she danced across the stage showing her contempt for the king who did not invite her to the festivities celebrating the birth of his daughter, Princess Aurora (the talented and impressively athletic Trinity Santoro during the matinee; Grace Curry in the evening performance).

The post-intermission Act II fast-forwards 100 years. The princess has been pricked by the poisoned spindle and the entire kingdom has been asleep for a millennium. Enter Prince Desire (Michael Sayre at both the matinee and evening performance).

He seems to float across the stage, leaping and bounding effortlessly, as he searches for the ideal love. The Lilac Fairy (Sara Jaworski at the matinee; Anna McCormick in the evening) appears to show him the way. He fights his way through Carabosse and her monsters (in nice performances from Jordan Anderson, Carol Dilts, Alexandra Gaviria and Kaylie Thrun) to his princess, whom he wakes with a kiss.

Their elaborate wedding ends the abbreviated show. The one hour, 40 minute performance was just the right length to make it accessible to the many kids in the audience – most of them young girls, more than of few who wore their own princess dresses.

The production was choreographed by A&A Ballet artistic directors Anna Reznik and Alexei Kremnev to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score (although the lack of a live orchestra definitely diminished the production).

The sets feature projections of original illustrations by renowned 19th century book illustrator Gustave Doré. The luscious costumes were designed by Lisa Weller, Carolyn Fay and Laura Skarich.

A&A Ballet, which will move next year to a new permanent home at 731 S Plymouth Court, Chicago, received the “Outstanding School Award” at the 2019 Youth American Grand Prix. Several company members also brought home distinguished awards, including “Best Choreographer” and “Best Ensemble.”

While the 2019 season has ended for A&A Ballet, the company will participate in “Festival International Bravissimo” in Guatemala City on May 28-31, 2019.

It is the company’s first international engagement and will feature A&A’s acclaimed production of “Cinderella,” performed by the company’s leading members. It will star American Ballet Theatre’s National Training Scholar and the 2018 Grand Prix winner Grace Curry as Cinderella; Tricia Carmody will play one of the stepsisters.

A&A offers a wide variety of classes, professional performance opportunities, private instruction, choreography and training for dancers ranging from age  3 to adult.

For more information  call (312) 545-2142 or visit aacenterfordance.org.

Cindy Richards