Sleeping Beauty

The New York City Ballet on Thursday, January 4.

Could there be a more passive heroine than Princess Aurora, better known as Sleeping Beauty? She literally sleeps through most of the story, either as an infant or as the victim of a curse. That’s not her fault, of course, but neither does it make her a particularly compelling character.

The classic Tchaikovsky ballet, as choreographed by Peter Martins, drawing from the iconic work of Marius Pepita, remedies that by highlighting the Lilac Fairy as the story’s true heroine, even if she doesn’t get titular status. After evil Carabosse curses baby Aurora, the Lilac Fairy bravely counters the spell, downgrading spindle-induced death into a hundred-year slumber. When her spell takes effect, the good fairy safeguards the princess and her family by conjuring protective brambles around the castle. Then she finds a suitable prince, enchants him with a vision of the sleeping beauty, leads him to the castle, and helps cut away the thorny hedges. No wonder she takes center stage in the final tableau: the happy ending is entirely her doing.