Youngster excited about role in Manassas Ballet Theatre production of ‘Sleeping Beauty’

For most 7-year-olds, “Sleeping Beauty” means Disney: Maleficent, Briar Rose, singing forest creatures. But for Elizabeth Swisher, it means the classical ballet: a soaring Tchaikovsky score, elaborate costumes and Marius Petipa’s intricate choreography.

The Haymarket resident will play Prologue Aurora in the Manassas Ballet Theatre’s production of “The Sleeping Beauty” at the Hylton Performing Arts Center. The company is using Petipa’s choreography and the ballet is staged by Vadim Slatvitskiy, the company’s ballet master.

Forget handsome princes. Being on stage while music from a live orchestra swells beneath her is Elizabeth’s “Once Upon a Dream” (or “Garland Waltz” in Tchaikovsky-speak).

Her part is small; during the ballet’s prologue, she acts out what evil fairy Carabosse is threatening to do on Aurora’s 16th birthday. But never mind the size of the role. A sparkly pink tutu and performing opposite one of her teachers, Margaret Hannah, who plays Carabosse, are a big deal for a pint-size pirouetter.

“You get a close-up view of everything because you’re right on the stage,” said Elizabeth, whose favorite part of performing is the accompaniment of a live orchestra. She also had a part in the company’s production of “Don Quixote” last spring.


Manassas Ballet will perform "Sleeping Beauty" at the Hylton Performing Arts Center. (Sarah Lane/The Washington Post)

The young dancer takes classes at the studio three days a week. With rehearsals for “Sleeping Beauty” on top of the regular ballet classes, she’s often there more than seven hours a week these days. She is home-schooled, which helps her juggle the intense dance schedule, piano lessons and, of course, playing outside.

Given the choice, she would probably spend even more time at the studio.

“When I started doing it, I knew I had found my thing,” Elizabeth said of ballet.

She has been taking classes for about three years, said her mother, Marcy Swisher. She moved to Manassas Ballet Theatre’s academy two years ago from a small studio in Haymarket to take classes from professional dancers. The difference, Marcy Swisher said, has been amazing.

“They’re serious about their ballet,” said Swisher, whose older daughter Madeline, 9, also takes classes at the studio. “Their skill level has grown exponentially because of the hands-on instruction. . . . They don’t berate the children, there’s no embarrassing of the children, but they’re serious. There’s no coddling of the kids.”

Elizabeth and Madeline also dance with the Children of the Court in Act I.

The production will include all new hand-made backdrops and costumes. The cast is close to 100 dancers, said Amy Grant Wolfe, artistic director for Manassas Ballet Theatre. They have not performed “The Sleeping Beauty” since 2009, she said.

Manassas Ballet Theatre will present “The Sleeping Beauty” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Hylton Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $35 to $55. For information visit www.manassasballet.org.

Mari-Jane Williams covers parenting and family issues for Local Living and schools for the Prince William and Loudoun Extras.
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