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Houston Ballet Deftly Stages Epic, Challenging Sleeping Beauty

The Setup: On the eve of moving into new downtown facility the Center of Dance, the Houston Ballet has planned a greatest-hits season of sorts.

The Execution: The Sleeping Beauty pays homage to former Houston Ballet Artistic Director Ben Stevenson, reviving his 1990 staging of this seminal classical ballet. But there's nothing dated about this production; its crispness is staggering.

The fairytale is familiar, yet it's that which allows the interpretation of the characters to be danced so passionately. This is a name-dropping ballet. Originally choreographed in 1890 by Marius Petipa, arguably one of the most influential ballet masters of the nineteenth century, and backed with music composed by Tchaikovsky, The Sleeping Beauty remains one of the most technically challenging story ballets to date. But more than that, it possesses some of the most sought-after roles in the dance world. With a prologue and three full acts, this ballet is epic. The three main female roles -- Princess Aurora (Sara Webb opening night; the cast rotates), the Lilac Fairy (Danielle Rowe) and the evil Carabosse (Amy Fote) gave powerhouse performances. And with cutting precision and flawless unison dancing, the corps de ballet continued to amaze throughout the evening. Sara Webb's Rose Adagio was truly lovely, and the six Fairy divertissements unfolded with searing speed and delightful delicacy.

The Verdict: This ballet is a tour de force of dancing that never loses sight of how the romance of a prince's kiss can still charm us all.

(Through March 20. Houston Ballet at Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas Avenue, 713-227-2787)

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