True love's struggle against the supernatural currents of good and evil is a hallmark of Tchaikovsky's lush, heavily enchanted ballet Sleeping Beauty, with which Kentucky Ballet Theatre will close its season this weekend.
The Russian composer's second ballet is based on the Brothers Grimm's version of the tale, with a few characters from other fairy tales mixed in, including Little Red Riding Hood and Puss 'n Boots. Newly appointed KBT executive director Brienne Lowry describes Sleeping Beauty as being "as classical as it gets."
Longtime company dancer Anna Patsfall echoes Lowry.
"It's a classical ballet that has everything," she says. "It has the pretty princess, the evil forces, the happy ending, and it's a very technical ballet for the dancers."
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Says dancer Roberto Sifontes, who has been with the company since 2001 and is Patsfall's husband: "The story, the whole production, the choreography, the dancers — it's going to be a beautiful performance. It's a beautiful ballet."
For Patsfall, Sifontes and principal male dancer Orlando Viamontes, Sleeping Beauty is special for more than its classical beauty: It is their last production with Kentucky Ballet Theatre.
Patsfall and Sifontes are moving to Florida so Patsfall, who also has been at KBT since 2001, may pursue a master of fine arts degree in ballet and choreography at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Sifontes says he will continue to pursue opportunities in teaching and choreography.
Viamontes, who has been with the troupe since 2005, also is moving to Florida, to be closer to his Cuban family.
"I'm excited about it, but at the same time it's kind of sad to be leaving and to be doing the last show in the Opera House," says Patsfall, who plays Sleeping Beauty's evil fairy, Carabosse, the character on which Disney based its version's villain, Maleficent.
"I feel a little sad," says Viamontes, who plays the love interest, Prince Florimund.
Together the trio have almost three decades' worth of experience at Kentucky Ballet Theatre and have become staples of the company, dancing some of the most iconic roles in ballet during their tenures while also taking on leadership roles.
Patsfall, for instance, is a frequent teacher in KBT's academy. During this weekend's production of Sleeping Beauty, she'll get to see her students' hard work pay off as more than 20 young dancers from KBT's school will dance in supporting roles alongside the professionals.
"I've been teaching some of those girls since they were young and I've got to see them grow up," Patsfall says. "They've really turned into beautiful artists. You can see how they learn from watching the company, and being able to be a part of the whole production and getting to see what it's really like to be a dancer."
Hana Johnson is one of the students. A 10-year-old who calls KBT her "second home," Hana landed a part as a fairy helper. With appearances in the first act and the second act's Waltz of the Garlands, Hana will be gaining experience onstage as the seasoned performers say their goodbyes.
"I get nervous right before I go onstage, so that makes it a little harder for me," says Hana. "Dancing is my favorite thing to do."
Her mother, Angela Johnson, said, "When they're part of these shows they get to learn not only the value of hard work and learning something new but also how to balance their academics and their social lives, and I feel like it's a lifelong lesson for them to learn how to keep all of that in balance."
The young dancers' exposure to professional practices, the professionals' swan song and retirement — these are all part of the cycle of a dancer's life.
Like many retiring dancers, Patsfall, Sifontes and Viamontes see teaching and choreography in their futures.
"I'd like to do some choreography for more professional companies as well as teach in a university setting where I can work with dancers who are right on the verge of their professional career," Patsfall said.