On Film: Is Everyone Sleeping for this “Beauty?”

I’m surprised that the Ballet in Cinema series, now at the start of its second season, hasn’t caught on with Pittsburghers, given the current wave of dance popularity. Even in my college days, there was Royal Ballet’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” starring Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev, which played to bigger audiences at movie houses way back when.

But now we can regularly partake of various dance programs on television and see some of the world’s greatest companies — that same Royal Ballet, plus the Bolshoi and Paris Opera — without leaving the Pittsburgh area.

Maybe we’re on overload.

The audience in the theaters — The Oaks in Oakmont or the Carmike 10 near South Hills Village — seemed composed of senior citizens at various screenings, although it seemed to be the perfect opportunity for students or teachers to drink in all that the international ballet arena has to offer.

Okay, so this time there was an adorable little bunhead, Sophia, in attendance with her mother at the Bolshoi’s “Sleeping Beauty,” recently on view at the Carmike 10. She was decked in a pink hoodie and tutu-like skirt and even entertained us (all four of us) when the live feed uncharacteristically stopped.

This was a particularly momentous occasion, though, and there should have been more people at the movies. After all, it was a chance to see the renovated splendor of the historic Bolshoi Theater, to see the cameras slowly pan over the golden gilt covering its sumptuously carved balconies. And the crystal chandeliers and glass sconces gleamed as they must have during its early glory days during the start of the 20th century.

It was also the debut of principal dancer David Hallberg, the first American to be asked to join the Bolshoi, performing Prince Desire to prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova’s Aurora.

They were a match made in heaven, both long and lean and true of line. However she didn’t have that teenaged innocence that marks a great Aurora. Instead she was glamorous, a queen-in-the-making, with extraordinary extensions that unfolded at every opportunity.  It was easy to see why he was given the invitation, an impeccable artist at the height of his powers, but with a control that set him apart in one of the world’s great companies.

The entire cast in general seemed aware of the importance of the occasion and gave a performance worthy of “Bolshoi” or “big.”  The camera angles took advantage of that, in their own way, pointing out the most delicious classical details, the kind that you can’t see from your seat. And they luxuriated in Ezio Frigerio’s opulent scenery (although minus any wooded growth around the palace) and Franca Squarciapino’s beautifully detailed costumes.

I was just thinking how lucky I was to see Margot and Rudy in that particular production, but I missed much more because there were so few films to be had. There’s still a chance to catch an encore “Sleeping Beauty” presentation on Tuesday, Dec. 6. See the Listings for more information.

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