Q&A: Toni Pimble of the Eugene Ballet Company on ‘The Sleeping Beauty’

Yoshie Oshima and Brian Ruiz in ‘The Sleeping Beauty.’ Photo courtesy of Jon Christopher Meyers Photography

On Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 25 at 2 p.m., dancers from the Eugene Ballet Company will be performing The Sleeping Beauty, a ballet composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Tickets for the performance, which will take place at the Hult Center for Performing Arts, range from $29 -59.

Toni Pimble, artistic director and co-founder of the Eugene Ballet Company, answered the following questions.

How much of your input and ideas go into the performance?

This one is very interesting because it was first produced in I think about 1890, and so a lot of the original choreography for certain parts of the ballet are still in. For example, the Grand Pas De Deux at the end of Act 3 is pretty much the way it’s done. You know, they’ll be little changes, but it’s basically the same.

And then there are bluebirds that appear in Act 3, which is the wedding ceremony, and that dance is also probably close to what it was originally. But then there are sections like the garland dance. We know there was a garland dance, but the choreography doesn’t exist anymore. And so at the beginning of Act 1, those (are) pieces I have choreographed.

There’s also the added fact the one dancer may look good doing one thing and another dancer is better at something else so we tweak choreography to individual principles to make them look their very best.

What happens throughout the day leading up to a performance?

Usually dancers are resting, then they come in around four and we will do a company class because we do company class every day. That is part of the classical ballet dancer’s training, which is usually about an hour and a half in which they do 45 minutes of exercises at the bar… And then for Sleeping Beauty we will do a half hour of rehearsals because we have some younger students performing with us. We have garland children, which they are about between 10 to 12-years-old. And they join in in the garland dance and it’s fairly complicated, so we like to rehearse them at the last minute before they go on stage.

How would you describe the feel of The Sleeping Beauty?

It is definitely a big, grand ballet in all senses of the word. There’s a lot of eye candy. It’s very lush. But at the same time, it’s a fairy tale, so in that respect, it is definitely family friendly. And what we have done is that as we go into scene changes and also the overture in the beginning, we have slide projections that actually tell the story in increments so that people know what they’re going to see in the next act.

I always find that really charming because a lot of times you’ll hear moms whispering to their little girls. They read the story on the slide that’s being projected. It’s just very sweet.

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