Blog

Mon 05.12.2022 Iana Salenko

Notes on Sleeping Beauty by Iana Salenko

Photo: Yan Revazov Photo: Yan Revazov

I started dancing Aurora very early. When I was 18 after school, I prepared the role for the first time and fell in love with it straight away. I thought this is mine, these are my feelings, this suits me, young and cheerful. I don't even need to play that much, I just express my feelings as I am.

Every leading role is a dream. You have images of the best dancers in your head, and then you try to do it like them, as best as you can. I watched Larissa Lezhnina on DVD when I was a child. She is, in my opinion, the perfect Sleeping Beauty. I still have those images of her clearly in my mind and remember that I also wanted to be like her.

Now this was the first time I worked with Marcia Haydée. You can learn so much from her! Not only about Sleeping Beauty, she also talks about Onegin, John Cranko and many other ballets. That's why I've tried to soak up everything she says. Marcia is a lovely person. She has a lot of experience with dancers and can see straight away how much her counterpart already knows. She saw that I already had a lot of experience with Sleeping Beauty and that I was ready for this role. So she just left me as I am. Here and there she gives suggestions: "Try this or try that" or she asks you how you feel with these steps. She just let me and other dancers do it. Most of all mentally she prepared me for this role and encouraged me to tell more, to show more feelings and personality. She encourages us to go our own way, as dancers and people, to bring our own personality into the roles.
It is very nice to work with her because she always tries to help you. She is also always there backstage and you can just trust her. She is not so critical, but full of love.

In preparation, I try to invent the role for myself and think about how I want to tell the story with each step. Once I have internalised the story, every performance becomes different, and it's fun every time because I can keep retelling the story in my head with the dance.
I try to bring Aurora into our time. She is shy, sweet, but curious at the same time. She wants to try out new things. That's how I want to present her, as a young girl who is curious, enjoys getting to know new things and has many dreams.

Not only the rose adagio is difficult to dance, but the whole piece! The Rose Adagio is especially difficult because as Aurora you have to dance with four men in a short time. This requires a lot of coordination with the partners when turning, holding or standing and above all not to look like a robot while doing it. You have to feel what shape your partner is in on the day so that you don't dance too far or too close. It's mentally and physically difficult. The most difficult thing is to keep the "promenades" and "balances" because some days it's not so easy to find them.
Also, you don't have a break after the Rose Adagio. You can't go backstage for a moment to dab off your sweat, you stay on stage for 20 minutes and sit in the corner for a moment, sweaty, and then you go straight on with your 5-minute variation. It's so hard. I've already danced the role in six different versions, but none of them was as hard as this one. It makes perfect sense though - Aurora shouldn't be walking off stage preparing her pointe shoes when the princes present themselves to her.

This Sleeping Beauty is very traditional, and dancing the steps musically like that is the hardest part. It's like a book from 200 years ago! To dance this is almost impossible, and makes it a great challenge to dance this beautiful and technically difficult role. Sleeping Beauty is one of the best pieces from the classical ballet repertoire. I like that.