Once upon a time, Matthew Bourne created a vamped-up adaptation of Sleeping Beauty for his innovative company, New Adventures, devised to wake audiences up to the charms of contemporary dance theatre. Premiered in 2012, Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty proved to be a gothic fairy tale that dance aficionados and newcomers alike could really get their teeth into. This week, having been roused from its slumber for a second nationwide tour, the enthralling interpretation of a much-loved classic is once again casting its spell over visitors to Milton Keynes Theatre.
As a choreographer, Matthew Bourne has always been one who dares to dream. This is, after all, the dazzlingly deviant dance-maker who gave us a deliciously different, Dickensian orphanage-set Nutcracker; not to mention a Swan Lake featuring a menacing male ensemble which initially ruffled a few feathers among ballet purists. It was certainly no mean feat to overhaul these iconic ballets in a totally new movement style!
Bourne’s re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty (which is perhaps the ultimate classical ballet thanks to its glorious score, tutu-clad fairies and abundance of virtuoso dancing) came about as a way of celebrating New Adventures’ 25th birthday. Its inclusion in the company’s repertoire made Bourne’s dream of completing Tchaikovsky’s trilogy of ballet masterworks – in his own inimitable manner – a reality.
Dancer Dominic North is currently touring with New Adventures, performing in Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty.
He found time for a quick chat with Georgina Butler to discuss how things have moved on since the “original” Princess Aurora dozed off…
Dancer Dominic North first appeared with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures in 2004 as an ensemble swan in Swan Lake. Since making his official début in a principal role as Edward in Edward Sissorhands in 2008 at the Sydney Opera House, he has performed as many of Bourne’s lead characters.
Matthew Bourne is renowned for delving into stories in a bid to reveal characters’ motivations and unearth deeply buried narrative elements. His Sleeping Beauty is devised as a gothic romance full of fairies, supernatural surprises and, of course, true love. Bourne plays around with the time that the story is set so that Princess Aurora is born the year that the classical ballet first premièred and “comes of age” with a 21st birthday during the Edwardian era. This means that she is roused from her slumber in 2012 (which is when Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty was premièred).
He certainly gives the traditional tale enough ingenious twists and turns to keep a contemporary audience intrigued. Just for starters, Aurora falls for the royal gamekeeper; the couple enjoy a sweet romance before the princess visits the land of Nod and a vampiric twist heavily influences who is there to wake her up a century later! Nonetheless, Bourne’s careful attention to detail when coming up with his concept means that he manages to put his own spin on proceedings while simultaneously paying homage to the masterpiece that the classical ballet will forever be.
I am such a balletomane and The Sleeping Beauty may well be my favourite classical ballet (although, admittedly, the top-spot seems to change far too frequently to enable me to have a definitive favourite!). Still, prior to seeing Matthew Bourne’s version, I had never properly considered quite how momentous falling asleep for 100 years would actually be. Maybe it is just because we know the children’s yarn so well but his imaginative approach certainly adds an array of fascinating features that were missing from my bedtime stories!
What better way to learn more about Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty than by chatting to New Adventures‘ principal dancer Dominic North all about the role that has made him wake up and see this fairy tale differently…
We all endeavour to carve out a place for ourselves in the world and Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands reminds us that Bourne has most certainly found his place as a dance-maker.
Matthew Bourne is renowned for his bold adaptations of classical ballets including Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. The clever re-writes unearth previously unexplored elements of these well-loved stories and his company, New Adventures, impressively engages audiences through innovative contemporary dance. As a dedicated balletomane, I have found Bourne’s inventive interpretations deliciously refreshing so I expected Edward Scissorhands (a work that does not exist in the classical ballet repertoire) to be similarly “cutting-edge”.
Happily, opening night was a “shear” delight, with Bourne proving once again how sharply attuned he is to theatregoers’ predilection for quirky stories told well. Based on Tim Burton’s 1990 fantasy film, Edward Scissorhands is the touching tale of a boy created by a bereaved father. In Bourne’s dark prologue, we learn that the late Edward was a young boy who was struck dead by lightning while playing with scissors. His grieving father becomes determined to bring his son back to life and sets to work producing an artificial being. Unfortunately, the eccentric creator is frightened to death by Halloween trick-or-treaters, leaving Edward alone and unfinished – with scissor blades for hands.
The simple — admittedly, surreal — narrative follows isolated Edward’s attempts to fit into 1950s suburban America. Bourne excels at creating characters and the production certainly delivers razor-sharp character-driven dance-drama.