ART BEAT: Northeast Atlanta Ballet present 'Sleeping Beauty' with the Gwinnett Symphony

One of the most well-loved ballets in the classical repertoire will be presented through Sunday by the Northeast Atlanta Ballet. Five performances of "Sleeping Beauty" will be accompanied by the Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center.

There are many aspects of this ballet that have made it so popular with audiences. One of these is the lush, beautiful score by Tchaikovsky, who also wrote such ballets as "Nutcracker" and "Swan Lake." Other facets of the ballet are the beautiful sets and costumes.

"The set was designed by Jolen Bain, former scenic artist for the Alliance Theatre, and David Klein," Artistic Director Jennifer Gordon said. "There are nearly 300 costumes in this production which were designed and executed by Barbara Mock and MJ Designs. We are very excited about our new White Cat and Puss 'n Boots costumes. The White Cat was a custom tutu from Russia with a Venetian mask -- just beautiful."

There will be others in the theatre in costume who are not dancers.

"Little ones may dress in costume and come onstage to meet Princess Aurora 30 minutes prior to each performance," Gordon said.

Portraying the lead role of Aurora will be three of NEAB's young dancers, Cynthia Hardegree, Gretchen Hughes and Jessie Williams. Each of these ladies has been the recipient of many scholarships to prestigious summer intensives. Aria Colangelo and Jessie Williams will be sharing the role of the Lilac Fairy.

There are many beautiful dances for individuals, called variations, in this ballet, especially the fairy variations. "'Sleeping Beauty' is a wonderful production as it gives so many dancers an opportunity to perform their first solo variation," Gordon said. "We use the tradition Petipa choreography. These variations have been passed down for generations and are an integral part of the development of young dancers."

Dancing the role of the Prince will be Ralph Jacques who has been a member of such ballet companies as Dance Theatre of Harlem, Atlanta Ballet, International Ballet Rotaru and, most recently, Ballet Memphis, where he was a principal dancer. He toured Romania with Rotaru and Taiwan with the Indianapolis Ballet.

Another male role of note is that of Bluebird. NEAB student Ian Schwaner will perform this demanding role. A graduate this May, Schwaner has been called back to New York City for further auditions at Julliard, where he hopes to study after high school.

For more information about "Sleeping Beauty" or Northeast Atlanta Ballet, visit the website at www.northeastatlantaballet.org.

Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. today, 10 a.m., 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $13.50 to $16.50 in advance, and $16.50 to $19.50 the day of performance. Group rates are available.

Email Holley Calmes at hcalmes@mindspring.com.