Even if one owned seven-league boots, a flying carpet and Pegasus, the two "Sleeping Beauty" performances by Britain's Royal Ballet at Kennedy Center yesterday were light years apart. Not the physical production and the overall choreography, of course, or an even more constant factor like Leslie Edwards' engrained courtier, but the principal artists.
Lesley Collier, in the ballerina role at the matinee, made the famous running entrance and play step variation a dazzling display. She is a short, compact woman who moves with speed and force but not the slightest sign of unnecessary weight. None of Marius Petipa's brilliantly delicate choreography -- the balances of the Rose Adagio, the multifacted variations or the final fish dives -- gave her much pause. In the past her style has been more spacious than the British norm, and some of this still shows in a certain pliancy, but now she seems almost preoccupied with being fleet. In her dancing of "Beauty," classical steps began to look neoclassical. What Collier didn't do was enter the world of let's pretend. For her Aurora there was no dawning. She is the brilliant ballerina from beginning to end.
Marguerite Porter is a tall waif of a being. Her sensual movement sprouts from so low in the spine that it is difficult to prune cleanly. Technically, her role last night was far from easy for her, but she seemed magical as she grew up from shy Rose Adagio to a confident glow in the wedding duet.
Stephen Jefferies made a good match as Collier's no-nonesense prince. Dancing, he was more at home with the beats and air turns of the wedding than the line and shifting balance of the first pensive solo. Wayne Eagling's prince showed sensitivity to mood, and a bit of nonsense when he realized what had to be done to wake Porter. Linearity gave him the advantage in the first solo; at the wedding he danced spaciously, but was sometimes too loose. Again, Monica Mason showed that Evil is a great lady; Sally Inkin, in the afternoon, was like Bette Davis in a grade C horror flick.