Russian Grand Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty


When the words Russian and ballet are used in the same sentence, we expect something grand; the Russian Grand Ballet company’s recent performance of Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty did not disappoint. Sets were beautiful, costumes stunning, and the dancing uniformly excellent. The Lilac Fairy, performed by Yulia Zakharenko, was especially exquisite. Very tall, taller than the princes, with elegant long arms and legs, she clearly was a prima ballerina and we thought we had seen the star. Only later when Olga Kifyak appeared as Princess Aurora, flawlessly performing the wonderful Rose Adagio, did we realize this company has at least two prima ballerinas, not to mention several others nearly as outstanding.

Most male dancers are there to accent the ballerinas, turn them gracefully, and most especially make sure they are not hurt (“Don’t drop the girl”!), but when Yevgeniy Svetlitsa came flying on stage as Prince Desire, it was clear he is a master of his art and a joy to behold. Now, to have one great male dancer is wonderful, but we were delighted again in a later pas de deux to see Constantine Mayorov performing similar excellent leaps and turns with precision and power.

Great ballet is a display of skill, strength, grace, and artistic sense that requires years of training and on-going practice. To see this familiar tale portrayed in dance to such wonderful music was a delight; all in all, an excellent night out. Our only complaint, our good old Pantages Theater in Tacoma, a classic building filled with faded elegance, needs new chairs. A short performance is fine, but full length performances are physically taxing; perhaps there is a rich patron in the audience somewhere who could do something about it.

If you wish to see beautiful dance at the highest level, consider The Russian Grand Ballet next time they come to America. Alas, you have missed them for this year. They are headed home after a tour that lasted from Sept 20th through Oct 29th–36 performances all over the country, with only 4 days off, a grueling schedule. But then again, they are dancers. I have had the pleasure of associating at least somewhat with dancers and musicians, artists and actors, my entire adult life. Dancers in particular often display an interesting pattern–they may practice all day and perform all evening, then for relaxation have a nice meal and do what? Go dancing!


“All the world’s a Stage,” but some stages are better than others: Returning to Shakespeare in Utah

Lisa and I first attended the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, Utah, in 2003 on the recommendation of a friend. (It was called The Utah Shakespearean Festival in those days. I am glad they dropped the –an, which always bothered me. I usually dropped it myself anyway.) We were pleased at the consistently high level of professional theater we found there and promptly became area representatives for the Festival, those local people who talk it up when they can and distribute brochures with schedules and so forth. We went every year for a time, but the last few years work schedules prevented us until this past week: Ah! What a delight to be back!


Again for logistical reasons, our playlist consisted only of comedies this year (we skipped Julius Caesar and Henry V) namely: Murder For Two, a wonderful production consisting of only two highly talented and versatile actors, one of whom in his time plays many parts; Mary Poppins, featuring excellent music and two remarkable 9 year olds playing the Banks children, and yes, Mary does a fine job of flying; The Three Musketeers, a well condensed edition of the swashbuckling novel; The Cocoanuts, a recent revival of the hilarious Marx Brothers/Irving Berlin musical filled with sight gags and puns (Aristotle notwithstanding, they are very funny); and Much Ado About Nothing, a perennial favorite, very well done and always a joy. Though quite different, the performances were uniformly excellent.

This is the inaugural year of the new Beverly Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts, which houses the Utah Shakespeare Festival on the edge of Southern Utah University campus. It includes the Anes Studio Theatre, an intimate venue for theater in the round and experimental productions; the Jones Theatre, equipped with all the tools any stage manager and director could desire; and the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, recreating the feel of the 17th century without the smells. The latter replaces the Adams Memorial Shakespeare Theater, the future of which is unclear. Dear to our hearts, we walked around the old theater and recalled the happy and inspiring times we experienced there, one of which was meeting Fred Adams, the founder of the Festival whose vision led audiences from a temporary wooden platform on the grass in 1962 to the Adams Theater in the 1970s and now to the Sorenson Center. Well done Professor Adams!


One regret. We missed seeing The Odd Couple, a Neil Simon play starring two of our favorites, David Ivers and Brian Vaughn. It will run September 14-October 22. They are artistic directors now, but we first saw them as actors in 2003 when both played in Much Ado About Nothing. We were immediately taken with their talent. In The Odd Couple they will alternate between the roles of sloppy Oscar and neat Felix, one night playing one, the next night the other. Hmm. Perhaps we will have to find a way to make a run to Cedar in the Fall. For at least two nights.

This is the 400th anniversary of cousin Will’s death. We are grateful his spiritual descendants are alive and well. For more information on the Utah Shakespeare Festival, go to


Best Wishes.