The Rose Adagio is famous. In the world of ballet, the piece is known as a true test of a great ballerina. In the ballet of Sleeping Beauty, the young princess Aurora arrives at court and is presented to four suitors who give her roses (hence the name) as they dance with her and hope to win her affection. The choreography is difficult technically as the character of Aurora becomes more comfortable with the suitors. The biggest technical challenge is the series of promenades (when the suitor holds one of Aurora’s hands and walks around her in a circle, as she holds her position, turning her like a figurine in a jewelry box) and balances, all in an attitude derriere position. An example of the position follows (from http://www.abt.org/education/dictionary/index.html).
The series, which involves one promenade and one small balance with each of the four suitors, is hard enough on its own. But Aurora must do it all twice, once at the start of the piece and once more right at the end of the dance, when she has already done so much. The choreography is just as much of a test of endurance and stamina as it is of balancing skills, technical partnering ability, and dramatic talents.
I have chosen four performances of Aurora to critique, those of Cynthia Gregory, Viviana Durante, Alina Cojocaru, and Jurgita Dronina.
My favorite portrayal out of the four is that of Cynthia Gregory.
Although she is the earliest performance, and thus some of her technical dancing is not quite as advanced as the others, it is wonderfully impressive for her time. For example, the audience must have been flabbergasted when Gregory pulls off a triple pirouette at 0:48. While some moments are not as full as they would be expected to be in ballet today, Gregory’s quality of movement more than makes up for this discrepancy. For example, at 3:32, her leg does not hit a full 180 degrees, but her movement is incredibly soft and delicate, so the audience is more enthralled by the quality than critical of the leg height.
This video shows the basic choreography of the Rose Adagio. Most versions follow almost exactly this design even today, with only slight changes due to more advanced technique or stylistic differences (Vaganova, RAD, Cecchetti, etc.). The first series of balances comes at 2:34, and the final series of balances and promenades comes at 6:25.
I consider this video to be the best performance because of the character shown throughout. Gregory makes you believe that she really is the young princess who has just been introduced to four suitors, one of whom she is told she will marry soon. She begins shyly, as would be expected, and becomes more confident and happy as the piece progresses. For example, her hesitancy at 3:24 shows that she is still unsure and finding her footing with these four strange men. Over time, she becomes more emotional and dramatic as she begins to trust the suitors. For example, around 4:10, Gregory’s movement becomes much more full and open. She shows true gratitude for each rose she receives in the series beginning at 4:10, and from 6:05, the adjective that comes to mind is joyous. She is thoroughly enjoying herself by this point and is experiencing a flood of emotions. Yet Gregory shows she is truly a master of her own body and technique as she does not let her emotions overpower her final series of balances and promenades (at 6:25). She continues her excellent quality of movement all the way, as her last stretch to arabesque at 7:02 is slow and deliberate, rather than hit sharply.
The next video showcases Viviana Durante.
And her Rose Adagio:
This performance is perhaps the most different from Gregory’s performance. While Durante is a lovely dancer and pulls off the technical side of the Rose Adagio beautifully, her quality is in stark contrast to Gregory’s. Her movements are often sharp and harshly precise, even though I believe the piece is entitled the Rose Adagio for a reason. The sharp quality is appropriate during the entrance, but I wish she had smoothed out her movement during the Adagio itself. The sharper movement caused her to give a very confident portrayal of the character, which came off as very smug and almost snobby. For example, in the second video, the sequence with developpes at 0:08, the look she gives at 0:33, the fact that she ignores the last suitor’s hand and her smile at 0:57, and the attack of the movement at 1:09. More examples include the look at 1:34, the manner in which she takes the roses at 4:23 (almost snatching them), and the almost violently hit arabesque at 5:24. All in all, a technically brilliant performance, but I found Durante missed the appropriate quality for the character.
The next performance is from Alina Cojocaru:
I find she once again exceeds my expectations with this portrayal. Her technical abilities cannot be debated – she’s wonderful and probably as close to flawless as is humanly possible. I believe that her portrayal of the character is spot-on as well. The look of wonder she gives at 0:17 makes her seem young from the very start of her entrance. She has lovely musicality throughout, which lends itself greatly to the character. Her interaction with her parents at the start of the pas is also very sweet. I couldn’t find anything significant to critique.
The final video is only excerpts, not the full performance, from Jurgita Dronina.
Up until 0:25 is from the entrance, and her final series of balances begins at 1:38. Her balances are the best of the four performances that I’ve highlighted.I hope you enjoy comparing the four different performances and seeing my opinions on them all. Which one is your favorite?