Anna Thornton, center, played the role of the wicked fairy Carabosse in Ballet Northwest’s “The Sleeping Beauty” production in 2013. Jerome Tso Courtesy
Anna Thornton, center, played the role of the wicked fairy Carabosse in Ballet Northwest’s “The Sleeping Beauty” production in 2013. Jerome Tso Courtesy

Arts & Culture

‘Sleeping Beauty’ will be swan song for Ballet Northwest teen

By Molly Gilmore

Contributing writer

May 11, 2017 06:44 AM

Anna Thornton, playing the title role in Ballet Northwest’s “The Sleeping Beauty,” has danced the ballet from both sides now.

Thornton, an 18-year-old senior at Olympia High School, danced the role of the wicked fairy Carabosse four years ago, the last time the company produced the classic ballet. The new production opens Friday (May 12).

“It’s pretty unheard of for an eighth-grader to have a major role like that,” said Ken Johnson, the company’s co-artistic director. “It’s fun to see her come full circle.”

Thornton has danced lead roles in every Ballet Northwest production since she began high school, but the roles in “The Sleeping Beauty” are her favorites.

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She said she loved playing Carabosse, a role that allowed her to dance in a contemporary style. “It’s like being in a completely different ballet,” Thornton said. “Before I was Aurora, (Carabosse) was probably my favorite part ever, but I like Aurora just as much.”

Much of the storyline will be familiar to those who’ve seen the Disney versions: The princess is cursed by a wicked fairy, pricks her finger on a spindle and sleeps till a kiss awakens her.

In fact, Disney’s 2014 “Maleficent” — about the wicked fairy traditionally known as Carabosse — influenced the costuming in this year’s production. “This year, Carabosse has horns, so it’s even more Maleficentesque,” Thornton said. “I really like that part.”

The 1890 ballet put a twist on the traditional story, inviting an all-star lineup of fairytale characters to Aurora’s wedding. Cinderella and her stepsisters, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, Hansel and Gretel and Puss in Boots all show up for the big day.

New to the Ballet Northwest production this year are Snow White and the seven dwarfs, whom Johnson and wife Josie Johnson added to showcase more dancers. “It’s a fun part to highlight some of the young boy dancers,” Ken Johnson said.

More boys are dancing these days, he said, perhaps in part because of such TV shows as “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”

“Olympia is such an artistic city,” he said. “Families appreciate the value that dance has for boys.”

Like “The Nutcracker,” “The Sleeping Beauty” is set to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa. Other than “The Nutcracker,” “Beauty” is the most popular ballet in the company’s repertoire.

Thornton and Anthony Gamroth of Olympia, who performs with contemporary dance companies in Seattle, will lead the cast of nearly 100 dancers.

Thornton, who plans to attend the University of Southern California starting next spring and minor in dance, sees this weekend’s role as her swan song.

“This will be my last big show,” she said. “Ballet, if you want to continue professionally, is a very rigorous life.”

The Sleeping Beauty

What: Ballet Northwest presents the classic tale of a princess who falls under the curse of a wicked fairy — and it’s not the Disney version.

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday (May 12) and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia.

Tickets: $23-$33, $19-$28 for students and seniors, $14-$19 for youths.

Information: 360-753-8586, washingtoncenter.org, balletnorthwest.org.