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  • A baby cursed at birth. A fierce battle of good and evil.

  • A true love awoken with a kiss.

  • Sleeping Beauty is one of the world's favorite folktales.

  • But one of its most famous renditions tells the story without a single word.

  • Since premiering in 1890,

  • "The Sleeping Beauty" has become

  • one of the most frequently staged ballets in history.

  • So what makes this piece so beloved?

  • And what exactly does ballet bring to thisor any other story?

  • At the heart of ballet are dozens of gestures

  • that dancers painstakingly perfect over thousands of hours of practice.

  • This unique set of gestures has been used for centuries,

  • each movement rich with meaning and history.

  • But you don't need to study them to understand ballet,

  • any more than you need to study music to be moved by a song.

  • And just as composers combine notes and phrases to form pieces of music,

  • choreographers string these gestures together with new movements

  • to form expressive combinations.

  • Working alongside the orchestra's live score,

  • ballerinas precisely perform these combinations to convey narrative,

  • emotion, and character.

  • In "The Sleeping Beauty's" opening scene,

  • a flurry of techniques depicts the fairy court

  • bestowing gifts on baby Princess Aurora.

  • The Fairy of Generosity delicately walksen pointe”—

  • meaning on the tips of her toes

  • in step with the light plucking of violins.

  • The ballerina moves in perfect harmony with the music,

  • even mimicing the violins' trill with an elegant bourrée.

  • The Fairy of Temperance, bestowing the gift of strong will on Aurora,

  • is choreographed as if shooting bolts of electricity from her fingers.

  • She bounds across the stage,

  • spinning with quick chaînés before decisively jetéing.

  • Some movements are even more literal than this.

  • The evil fairy Carabosse curses the princess with a lethal “X,”

  • and the benevolent Lilac Fairy counters that curse.

  • Of course, the relationship between music and movement

  • isn't always this straightforward.

  • While classical ballet gestures often respond to musical elements,

  • the degree to which the dancers and orchestra align

  • is another choreographic tool.

  • Some characters and scenes move in sync to create rhythmic clarity,

  • while others deliberately diverge from the orchestra.

  • Dancers and musicians maintain this delicate balance

  • throughout each performance,

  • engaging in a live negotiation of speed and rhythm.

  • But prior to the performance, a ballet's most important relationship

  • is between the choreographer and the music.

  • Choreographer Marius Petipa and composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

  • worked together on every second of "The Sleeping Beauty."

  • This is particularly noticeable in Princess Aurora's exuberant entrance

  • on her 16th birthday.

  • Tchaikovsky's enthusiastic music tumbles forward in fits and starts,

  • even cutting short some musical phrases to capture her impatience.

  • Petipa choreographs Aurora bouncing back and forth withpas de chat”—

  • French for "cat steps"— as she waits for her party to begin.

  • Once the celebration starts, it's up to the dancers to deliver

  • on the physical spectacle of performing these gestures with grace.

  • Aurora has the hardest part of all: her famous Rose Adagio.

  • As four suitors vie for her hand,

  • the Princess performs a dizzying array of balances, all en pointe.

  • She briefly takes each suitor's hand, but then balances unassisted

  • a breath-taking display of physical strength and skill.

  • However, it's not just technique that carries meaning,

  • but also style and personality.

  • Like an actor delivering their lines,

  • ballerinas can execute their movements to convey a wide range of emotion.

  • Aurora can be elegant and restrained,

  • throwing her arms in independence from her suitors.

  • Or she can be coy and flirtatious, descending from en pointe with grace

  • and knowing confidence.

  • "The Sleeping Beauty" offers a showcase for so much of what ballet can do.

  • Its graceful spectacle, dramatic physical vocabulary,

  • and enchanting coordination of music and movement

  • perfectly reflect the themes of this fantastical romance.

  • But ballet isn't just for epic fairytales.

  • Ballets can be non-narrative emotional journeys,

  • experimental deconstructions of form,

  • or pure demonstrations of skill.

  • The artform is always experimenting with a centuries old set of rules,

  • making it the perfect medium for stories old and new.

A baby cursed at birth. A fierce battle of good and evil.

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B2 TED-Ed ballet aurora sleeping beauty fairy sleeping

What’s the point(e) of ballet? - Ming Luke

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/07/03
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