Saturday, 16 May 2015

The Sleeping Beauty

Leon Bakst's costume design for  Carabossse
Source Wikipedia

In my review of Birmingham Royal Ballet's performance of The Sleeping Beauty in The Lowry on 27 Sept 2013 I wrote:
"Even though The Sleeping Beauty was premièred at St. Petersburg, its score was composed by Tchaikovsky and it was choreographed was by Petipa to Perrault's story, it is also a very English ballet. It was the work that reopened the Royal Opera House on the 20 Feb 1946 after the House had been used as a dance hall and furniture store (see "The History of the Royal Opera House" on the Royal Opera House website).
To understand the importance of The Sleeping Beauty in our social as well as our cultural history you have to know that it entered the repertoire of the Vic-Wells Ballet just before the Second World War. By all accounts the 1946 revival was a glittering occasion. It must have been one of the rare great nights of ballet to which I referred "In Leeds of all Places - Pavlova, Ashton and Magic" 18 Sept 2013. It was produced by Ninette de Valois, designed by Oliver Messel, Princess Aurora was danced by Margot Fonteyn and Petipa's choreography was supplemented by Frederick Ashton. There must have been a whiff of mothballs in the theatre as the audience had dusted off their pre-war dinner jackets, retrieved their best frocks and put on their jewellery for the first time after the Second World War. The analogy of that evening after years of war and rationing with Aurora's wedding after a century of hibernation must have been obvious and compelling."
It is a very special ballet which is why I am delighted to report that the Chelmsford Ballet Company (of which I am a proud non-dancing associate) will perform it at the Chelmsford Civic Theatre between 16 to 19 March 2016.

Although this company is made up largely of dancers who do not make their living from dance there is nothing amateurish about its performances (see The Nutcracker as it really should be danced - No Gimmicks but with Love and Joy 20 March 2014 and A Delight Indeed 22 March 2015). They have a resourceful and imaginative artistic director in Annette Potter, talented dancers several of whom are at first rate ballet schools, accomplished costume and set designers and makers, able technicians and an inspiring Chair in Marion Pettet who showed her flair as a character dancer in Pineapple Poll and Carnival of The Animals. Small wonder that their patrons are Christopher Marney, my favourite living British choreographer, and the great ballerina Doreen Wells.

I don't yet have any details of the performance. In particular, I don't know whether they have begun casting but I know who could dance the lilac role very well indeed. In my review of Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty in Bradford on 28 March 2013 I wrote:
"No Lilac Fairy though there was a Count Lilac powerfully danced by Christopher Marney"
Marney's dancing in that show was spectacular. I also seem to remember that Cara O'Shea, one of Northern Ballet Academy's most adored teachers (see Northern Ballet Open Day 18 Feb 2014 and A Treat For Us Old Ladies 27 Feb 2014), once danced Princess Aurora for the company. When I do get some information about Chelmsford's show I shall pass it in to you.

There's just one other thing about The Sleeping Beauty and that is the following passage from Wikipedia:
"Trademark controversy
The Walt Disney Company has registered a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office, filed March 13, 2007, for the name "Princess Aurora" that covers production and distribution of motion picture films; production of television programs; production of sound and video recordings. Some suggest that this may limit the ability to perform this ballet, from which Disney acquired some of the music for its animated 1959 film Sleeping Beauty."
At first I thought it was a joke but I followed the link and found that the words PRINCESS AURORA have indeed been registered by Disney Enterprises Inc. with the US Patent and Trade Mark Office as a service mark for
"Production and distribution of motion picture films; production of television programs; production of sound and video recordings"
in class 41 on 17 Jan 2012 under registration number 4,088,154.

The scare seems to have originated in an article by Nikki Finke in Deadline Hollywood dayed 1 May 2009 entitled An Attempt To Stop The Disney Machine which began with the alarming words:
"I’m told that the Walt Disney Co is currently attempting to trademark the character name “Princess Aurora” for all media: stage, sound, film, TV, video, Internet, photographs, news. In short, everything except literature."
The article continued:
"The problem is that, if the Disney Company is successful, it will effectively control the legal right to all future performances of the ballet. The move also could sink any movie about the ballet or that uses a scene of the ballet in another movie."
There is, incidentally, a parallel registration for the words PRINCESS AURORA in relation to a wide range of goods and services here.

Disney's trade mark cannot be infringed by performing Petipa's ballet The Sleeping Ballet for all sorts of reasons. The intellectual assets that the Disney Corporation seeks to wish to protect is a range of goods and services about a number of princesses one of whom is called Aurora.  She seems to be a spin-off from the studio's well known 1959 animation. The other princesses, incidentally, include Cinderella, Pocahontas and Rapunzel. A ballet that is based exclusively on any of those characters might perhaps infringe some of Disney's IP rights (though not necessarily the trade mark) but that would be an altogether different matter.

If anybody is, however, troubled by the intellectual property issues relating to The Sleeping Beauty, do give me a shout. I will advise and represent you and keep you on the straight and narrow for free. I know of at least one patent and trade mark agent as well as a specialist solicitor who love ballet as much as I do who would probably do the same.

Post Script

I do have some more information about Chelmsford Ballet's production. The following notice appeared on its Facebook page:
The Company will present
  "The Sleeping Beauty "
March 2016

Do you or someone you know want to dance in this enchanting tale?

Company Auditions 
21st June 2015
Only auditioned dancing members can dance in our annual productions.
Company auditions for new members and for upgrades for existing members are scheduled for Sunday 21st
 June.  Male applicants are especially welcome. Application forms are available to download from the website, or you can contact the membership secretary directly for more information. 
The closing date for applications to audition is the 7th June.

(Auditions for The Sleeping Beauty, open only to members, will take place in October 2015)

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