Saturday, 27 July 2013

Ballet Babies

As the world is fixated on the birth of the royal baby, I thought it would be interesting to consider the babies featured in ballets. Of course, Aurora in Sleeping Beauty is the most obvious. For the whole of the first act, the ballet's  heroine is confined to a cradle, while fairies and royal subjects rally around her.

In Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty, the situation is rather different. The title character is still a baby during Act I, but Bourne uses five different dolls for various purposes, from lying in a cot to crawling along the floor and even crying. This much more animated baby gives Aurora a personality before the dancer taking the role even steps onto stage, and it is by far the most inventive and successful element of Bourne's Beauty.

In some works, there are pregnant characters. In Mayerling, for example, Rudolf's wife (whom he terrorised and raped on their wedding night) attends the Act II Emperor's birthday celebrations with a hugely swollen belly indicative of late stage pregnancy.

Peter Schaufuss Ballet in Sleeping Beauty
In other ballets, births even take place on stage. I return now to Sleeping Beauty because in the Peter Schaufuss version (pictured), the King and Queen perform a love-making rolling-around dance before a curled-up naked adult baby emerges from beneath the Queen's skirt. 

In some versions of Apollo, the birth of the title character takes place in the opening scene, with him appearing in swaddling clothes (which are then unwrapped by handmaidens to symbolise his growing up). Northern Ballet's Cleopatra, choreographed by David Nixon, also features a birth. Cleopatra and Caesar roll erotically in a length of white fabric, which when bundled, cleverly becomes a baby.

I, personally, feel rather excited about the prospect of a new British king, but if you're not a fan of the monarchy, there are plenty of alternative babies, births and pregnancies to enjoy in ballet.

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