With pieces inspired by classic fairy tales, the Columbia University Ballet Ensemble is bringing recognizable repertoire to the Diana Center’s Glicker-Milstein Theater this weekend. Excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s “The Sleeping Beauty” will feature enchanting fairies, sensuous cats, and a light-footed bluebird, all of whom partake in the decadent wedding originally choreographed by Marius Petipa.
For the ensemble’s first production, artistic and executive directors Bass and Schwarz decided to rearrange the third act of “The Sleeping Beauty” in order to create an accessible, diverse ballet that could be staged and cleaned within a semester. Although CUBE’s rendition does call on Petipa’s choreography, Bass had to adapt the work to suit the talents and strengths of her cast.
“I think everything’s worked out pretty well,” she said. “I think everyone’s aptly showcased.”
Because Bass wanted to highlight the abilities of her advanced dancers, she added solos so that more performers could be featured. For example, she incorporated the fairy variations from the prologue into the jewels pas de trois, which became a pas de six so that it could better suit CUBE’s company, she said.
Another noticeable change is the Bluebird’s portrayal by a woman instead of a man—both Princess Florine and her fluttering companion are now pointe-shoed and poised, and the choreography has gone through major reconstruction to accommodate the female pas de deux. Finally, to include a corps de ballet presence, Bass moved the Garland Dance from Aurora’s 16th birthday in Act I to her wedding in Act III, permitting dance neophytes as well as well-versed bunheads to engage in scenes from the traditional canon.
CUBE was co-founded this semester by Rebecca Bass and Rebecca Schwarz, both BC ’15. As classically trained artists, both students felt that their college experiences lacked the story-ballet component that was intrinsic to their former dance careers.
“We’re still so rooted in that classical ballet that we really miss it, and we figured, why not make something where people can do that and continue that tradition?” Bass said.
Since its recent inception, CUBE has become a haven for dancers who miss pointe shoes and pliés.
Claire Wampler, BC ’14, who will perform the role of the cat in “The Sleeping Beauty,” has been involved in the Columbia dance scene since she arrived on campus, participating in everything from Orchesis to Columbia Ballet Collaborative to ballet classes at Barnard. But she said that only CUBE has allowed her to return to her technical roots.
“I transferred to Barnard from a ballet conservatory,” she said. “While I did choose to come to Barnard, I do miss the opportunity to perform classical works, and so I’m really excited about that opportunity here.”
Despite its new presence on campus, CUBE has enjoyed popularity—after its only show, scheduled for Saturday at 8:30 p.m., sold out, Bass and Schwarz scheduled a second show on Saturday at 10 p.m. to accommodate the public’s demands.
Though CUBE’s dancers are enthused by their reception within the Columbia-Barnard dance community, most are just glad to finally have a way to exercise their love of classical ballet.
“I’m really excited that this is happening and I’ve gotten the chance to experience this during my senior year,” Wampler said.
“The Sleeping Beauty” will be presented Saturday at 8:30 and 10 p.m. at the Glicker-Milstein Theater. Tickets are $5 with a CUID and $7 for the general public.