The Sleeping Beauty Ballet

the sleeping beauty balletThe History Of The Sleeping Beauty Ballet

Marius Petipa and Ivan Vsevolojsky wrote the story of The Sleeping Beauty Ballet originally, which was based on Charles Perrault’s 1697 fairy tale ‘The Sleeping Beauty In The Wood.’

Tchaikovsky wrote the music and then Marius Petipa designed the dances.

The Sleeping Beauty Ballet was first presented at the Mariinsky Theater in St Petersburg, Russia on the 15 of January 1890.

Carlotta Brianza danced the role of the princess and Pavel Gerdt the role of the prince, with Marie Petipa (pictured above and Marius’s daughter) as the Lilac Fairy and Enrico Cecchetti as Carabosse.

The ballet was first presented in Europe in a shortened version by the Ballet Russes in London on the 2nd of November 1921.

Catherine Littlefield designed the first complete Sleeping Beauty Ballet in the United States and presented the production on the 12th of February in Philadelphia with the Philadelphia Ballet.

The Sleeping Beauty Ballet Story


There is a brief overture at the beginning of the ballet that contrasts the themes of the malicious Carabosse and the good Lilac Fairy.

When the curtain rises the courtiers are assembled for Princess Aurora’s christening in the hall of King Florestan’s palace.

Catalabutte, the master of ceremonies marshals the guests. The King and Queen arrive to receive the greetings of their court.

A group of five good fairies arrives to present their gifts followed by the Lilac Fairy. Each fairy dances a variation but just as they have presented their gifts to the infant princess, a roll of thunder announces the appearance of another fairy.

sleeping beauty

Carabosse is the fairy overlooked by the master of ceremonies and she enters and curses Aurora. She is furious at having been forgotten when the invitations to the christening were sent out.

She mocks the other fairies and announces that her gift to the princess is one of death.

The Princess will die on here 16th birthday by pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel.

The remaining fairy (lilac fairy) steps forward, but cannot put the curse to rest. She instead softens it.

The Princess will not die but sleep for one hundred years, and then shall be woken by true love’s kiss.

Sixteen years later the princess is celebrating her sixteenth birthday party (in some earlier productions is her twentieth birthday) and the villagers dance the waltz. Aurora dances an adagio with four noble suitors.

Carabosse enters unnoticed dressed as an old woman and slips Aurora a spindle, on which she pricks her finger.

She falls to the ground sound asleep. The old woman throws off her cloak and reveals herself as Carabosse. The courtiers try to seize her, but she vanishes in a cloud of smoke leaving the distraught assembly contemplating the body of Aurora which lies on the ground at the Queen’s feet.

The Princess is carried into the palace by her noble suitors and then the lilac fairy puts the entire court to sleep and causes a dense forest of trees, twining brambles, and thorns to surround and hide the castle and gardens.

Scene 1: The Prince’s Hunt or The Vision

Hunting horns are heard and Prince Florimund, his tutor Galifron, and his friends come on stage. They have paused the hunt to refresh themselves. His companion’s dance and sport, but when the beaters enter announcing that a wild boar has been sighted, Florimund stays behind, urging his whole retinue to go after the animal.

The prince chooses to remain alone in the forest as he is feeling tired, and he then meets the Lilac fairy who emerges from a boat of mother-of-pearl on the river.

The fairy has chosen him as the Prince to awaken Princess Aurora and presents various visions of the princess to him.

He quickly falls in love with her from the visions and begs the Lilac Fairy to lead him to her.

The Lilac Fairy guides him through the forest until they reach the enchanted castle where Aurora rests.

Scene 2: Sleeping Beauty’s Castle or The Awakening

the sleeping beauty balletThe Sleeping Beauty lies on a canopied bed.

The King and Queen sleep in armchairs nearby. The courtiers and pages sleep standing up and leaning on one another.

Dust and cobwebs cover everything. The Lilac Fairy and the Prince enter and he tries to wake the princess but without success.

The Lilac Fairy stands to the side without interfering. The Prince then kisses the Princess.

She awakens and the dust and cobwebs disappear.

The court awakens and the King grants the marriage of the Prince and the Princess.

The Wedding Of Prince Desire And Princess Aurorasleeping beauty ballet

The court assembles to celebrate the marriage of Prince Florimund and Princess Aurora.

The King and Queen make their entrances with the newlyweds.

Festivities begin with a series of divertissements including The Diamond, Gold, Silver and Sapphire Faires dances. Several fairy tale characters make their appearances including Puss In Boots and the White Cat, The Bluebird and Princess Florine, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, Cinderella and Prince Fortune and Hop o’ My Thumb with his brothers and the ogre among others (depending on the production).

The Prince and Princess dance a pas de deux. There are also Roman, Persian, Indian, American and Turkish characters that dance the Sarabande.

The Sleeping Beauty Ballet ends with a tableau vivant representing the Glory of the Fairies and in later versions the Glory of Apollo.

12 thoughts on “The Sleeping Beauty Ballet”

  1. Ballet is a beautiful classical dance, full of energy and masters techniques. I

     always wonder about the origin of ballet and its gradual evolution if there is any. This post has really answered some of my age long questions. The story of these two fairies and the lovers is astonishing and more so is the continual evolution of the stories from Russia to England. Thanks for this beautiful piece of writing.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Olanike. I love researching the history of this beautiful art form as well as reading as much as I can about it.

  2. This is an informative and educative article. You have thoroughly put everything in perspective for anyone reading this post to understand the points. I have read this story before now but i must tell you this is the most comprehensive article i have ever read on this topic. Your article has opened my eyes the more on the concept of the story. Thanks for sharing

  3. What can I say other than amazing story there, the Sleeping Beauty ballet? This is my first time reading about this and all the work an art form like ballet involves. 

    In fact, the Rose Adagio that the princess performs in Act I is considered one of the most difficult adagios in any ballet I have seen.

  4. Thanks for bringing back my childhood memories! I read about the Sleeping Beauty when I was a child and found it a very fascinating and interesting story at the same time. It was one of my favorite fairy tales along with Little Red Riding Hood.

    Although I could not put all the characters together at the time, I really felt bad that anyone would want to place a curse on a harmless and loving princess.

    I really love how the story ends with Princess Aurora being awakened out of her long sleep by Prince Florimund.

    I would really love to watch how this story is told through ballet dancing, unfortunately, ballet is not commonly practiced where I live.

  5. This post is beautiful and very romantic and above all unlike Romeo and Juliet, it has a happy ending.  I have not read about the sleeping beauty before but your post has awaken my interest and I will grasp a copy to read through.  The sleeping beauty ballet as with all ballets comes with beautiful and elegant rhythms to tell the story of princess Aurora. If only the palace guards could stop that horrible Carabosse but it shows that destiny can never be changed,  probably princess Aurora could have married the wrong suitor, but for her to sleep for a hundred years,  the right man came into her like ; prince Florimund, that was just meant to be really.  What a happy ending to see everyone brought back to life after a hundred year of sleep,  wondering how it was it sleep for that long. I love the story , I love the ballet and I love your amazing post . Thanks 

  6. Your ability to pop out an article that relates stories with dance is so intriguing. You are really a gem when it comes to writing these articles and I am happy anytime I read them. Once again, I could not stop reading till I got to the end and once again, I was intrigued. I will love to read more of your articles


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