Review: Merced Civic Ballet and Merced Academy of Dance Presents “Sleeping Beauty”

What happens when you take more than 60 dancers of all ages and attempt to perform a full-length ballet? Magic! The Merced College Dance Teachers Cooperative kicked off Dance Week 2017 last night to a packed house at the Merced College Theater.

The ballet “Sleeping Beauty” is a theatrical presentation of a story made famous by the Brothers Grimm, who based their story on a version published 100 years before by Charles Perrault. Telling the story 100% through dance, no speaking or singing, is not an easy thing to do, but the artistry on stage showed the great talent dancers from the Merced County area possess.

The lead dancers, Amity Beardsley (Aruroa) and Jeremy Gleeson (Prince Florimund) were absolutely spectacular, but the addition of many other wonderful dancers (not the least of which was the Lilac Fairy played by Victoria Dabney) ensured the audience had someone beautiful to watch at all times. They were supported by a very large cast of dancers of all ages and ability levels.  When the curtain opened to start the first act, and you hear the audience collectively say “awwwwww,” you know you’re in for a treat.

The choreography by Jane Vann-Bryan, David Arce, Brianna Macias, and Amity Beardsley, was wonderfully done. The costumes by Lisa Gillialand-Viney and Christne Viney were breathtaking, and the lighting, sound, and sets were well-done. There were a few times I forgot I was in Merced and thought I was in San Francisco.

A little side note here for our readers: Audience Etiquette, otherwise known as how an audience should act…we need a little refresher course. Here are some things to remember next time  you watch a performance of something, especially ballet, a musical, basically any performance that has the house lights (where the audience sits) off during it.

  1. Turn your cell phones off!  There’s nothing worse than hearing a cell phone ring during a quiet moment, especially when it takes the phone owner a long time to get it out of their purse and turn it off
  2. If you are going to have your phones on (please put them in airplane mode) so you can take pictures or cruise Facebook (which you shouldn’t do, see tip number 1), turn your brightness level all the way down.  Both the performers on stage and everyone in the audience behind  you can see the glow, especially in a dark theater, and it is distracting
  3. If you bring a young child to a performance of this nature, and they are crying more than five minutes, please take them outside until they quiet down.  We know it’s hard to keep the little ones from fussing, but when it goes on more than a few minutes, it his hard for the performers to focus and the audience’s attention shifts from the stage to the noisy interruption.
  4. Speaking of noisy interruptions, stop eating candy!!! The first act last night wasn’t too bad, but for about 15 minutes after the intermission ended, all you heard was the crinkle of candy wrappers, the loud noise of water bottles being twisted when emptied to take up less space in the recycling bins, etc.  Make noise when the house lights are on, and when they go off, whatever you have left that will make a lot of noise needs to wait until after the show.

If you didn’t get to see the ballet last night, you’re in luck, because it will be done again tonight at 7:00 pm in the Merced College Theater. I highly recommend getting there early if you haven’t purchased a ticket yet to ensure you can get one. Just a warning though: the ballet is long…three hours long!  Make sure you get up to stretch and use the bathroom at intermission, because it will be a long time before you get another chance to.

Dance Week 2017 continues next week as well.  Please see the flyer below for details, or visit the Facebook page here. Thank you and congratulations to all the hard-working instructors, performers, crew, and family members for making these great performances possible!