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Art Beat: Ballet presents 'Sleeping Beauty'

The Northeast Atlanta Ballet will present the full-length - and very lavish - ballet "Sleeping Beauty" this Easter weekend at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center. With elaborate sets, costumes and the live accompaniment of the Gwinnett Community Symphony Orchestra, the event promises to be "a fairy tale come to life."

Performances will be at 2 and 7:30 p.m. today and at 10 a.m., 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

"Sleeping Beauty" is one of several famous classical ballets created through the collaboration of Marius Petipa and Peter I. Tchaikovsky for the Maryinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the last half of the 19th century. This combination also produced "The Nutcracker" and "Swan Lake." Based on the fairy tale of the same name, "Sleeping Beauty" is a large production to organize.

"There are close to 100 performers and almost 300 costumes," explains Northeast Atlanta Ballet artistic director Jennifer Byokawski. "The lavishly staged, family-friendly ballet features the Princess Aurora, many beautifully costumed fairies, and the wicked Carabosse, whose dark spell to harm Aurora is changed by the Lilac Fairy. When the lovely Aurora pricks her finger on her 16th birthday, she doesn't die. She merely falls asleep until a handsome prince kisses her and breaks the enchantment cast over her and the rest of the court. Familiar fairy tale characters, such as Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs, join in the Act III wedding celebration."

The ballet is also a challenge for the dancers.

"The dancers performing the lead are faced with not only the technical difficulties that 'Sleeping Beauty' is known for - Aurora performs four solos and three pas de deux, quite a technical feat - she must also be a convincing actress appearing first as an exuberant young teenager at her 16 birthday, then as a terrified youth as Carabosse casts her evil spell and places her in a deep sleep, then as a solemn figure in the vision scene, and finally a more mature young woman for the Act III wedding pas de deux and celebration," Byokawski says.

Sharing the role of Princess Aurora are two Gwinnett area dancers. Jenny Martin, a senior at Paideia, will be attending Butler University in the fall as one of only 20 freshmen selected from around the country to study ballet. Jamie Hodge, a senior at Parkview High School, will be attending Birmingham Southern next fall on a dance scholarship. The Lilac Fairy, another difficult and beautiful role, will be performed by Sarah Bottino, a junior at Brookwood High School.

The Gwinnett Community Symphony Orchestra will feature Ivana Cetkovic, a principal violinist from the Belgrade Philharmonic orchestra, performing many of the lovely violin solos that the "Sleeping Beauty" score includes.

Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster locations, by calling 404-249-6400 or by visiting the Gwinnett Center Box Office. For additional ticket information, call 770-921-7277. For more information about Northeast Atlanta Ballet, visit www.northeastatlantaballet.org.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail hcalmes@mindspring.com.