The History of Pantomime in Ballet

Long before it was a Disney Classic, The Sleeping Beauty was a ballet choreographed by Marius Petipa and Composed by Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky. The ballet was based on the fairy tale La Belle au bois Dormant by Charles Perrault. In Ballet, ballerinas must express meaning through gestures and movement; this is called pantomime.  

In the Sleeping Beauty Ballet, pantomime is used frequently through out as numerous characters must tell a story or express a themselves through expressive movement. 

In the ballet, the evil fairy is named Carabosse. Carabosse is upset that she was not invited to the christening (like Maleficent in the Disney remake). Carabosse performs a solo phrase of pantomime expressing how the princess will grow to be a beautiful woman, but, on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger and die! 

In her solo, Carabosse first explains how the Princess Aurora will grow. She lays her palm flat and lays her hand on top of it self to indicate a growing being. The universal sign for beautiful in ballet is take your hand and circle your face. King and Queen Florimund thank Carabosse for her lovely gift, but... Carabosse raises one finger to indicate there is more to this story. But...she tells the court, she will prick her finger - indicated by laying one hand flat and the other index finger and thumb striking the hand in a sticatto manner. Next Carabosse makes two fists, crosses her hands and throws her head back. The Court has a visual reaction of terror, sadness and anger as this symbolizes death in ballet. Carabosse and her minions laugh hysterically knowing of their evil outcome for the child. King Florimund signals Carabosse to immediately leave. Carabosse and her minions leave the court immediately. 

 As the King and Queen and their court grieve the news, the music suddenly softens. The music cues the Lilac Fairy. Like Carabosse, the Lilac Fairy has her own story to tell. She mimcs Carabosse's pantomime in telling King and Queen Florimund how the Princess Aurora will grow and be beautiful. She also states that she will pick her finger on her 16th birthday. She crosses her fists, in the symbolic death symbol for ballet but then takes her hands crossing over the other and shaking her head "no." She will not die. She also lifts her finger to say, there is more to this tale. She continues her story to share how the Princess will be awoken by a kiss. Kiss is an obvious gesture. Fingers to lips and blow a kiss. To wake up arms raise high above your head and open up. To indicate a great dance or celebration, circle your two hands above your head. 

Watch as our Princess Aurora teaches pantomime at her Ballet Class with Princesses attending the Princess Aurora Ballet Hour with the Castle Rock Community Recreation Center. 


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