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Ballet West’s 'Sleeping Beauty' villain makes evil look good

By Heather Hayes

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Feb. 1 2014 3:15 p.m. MST

Ballet West artists perform in an earlier production of "The Sleeping Beauty" in February 2011.

Luke Isley

It’s not all bad to be painted as a reality show villain. Just ask Ballet West soloist Allison DeBona, who starred in The CW Television Network’s “Breaking Pointe” series about the tumultuous lives of ballet dancers.

When the first season aired in 2012, cameras captured DeBona making unfeeling remarks and sometimes stirring up trouble. But DeBona cried foul, insisting the producers had mischaracterized her. By Season 2, her “evil streak” had all but vanished, and a frank sounding off on her Facebook page about the difficulties of professional dancing lauded her praise from her critics.

“It’s been great, and I’m happy with how things have turned out,” DeBona said. “The show has given me so much. Not a day goes by that there isn’t some opportunity to guest teach or dance in my inbox.”

She’ll be doing such a stint in Cleveland next month.

But DeBona will have to channel her dark side once again for her upcoming role as the villainous dark fairy Carabosse in Ballet West’s “The Sleeping Beauty,” which runs February 7-16 at the Capitol Theatre.

“It’s a difficult, dramatic role,” said DeBona, who premiered the new Carabosse three years ago when the company unveiled a newly conceived production. “I’ve thought a lot about what I can bring to it this time around, and I think she’s evolved for me. She’s more complicated than simply being evil. Sometimes she’s just scared, hurt or vulnerable.”

Perhaps DeBona has gained a little perspective on the subject.

Disney, too, has found a new fascination with the sorceress behind Sleeping Beauty’s slumber. “Maleficent,” starring Angelina Jolie and hitting theaters this spring, recounts how a pure-hearted young fairy suffers loss and betrayal at the hands of humans and becomes bent on revenge.

“She’s a captivating creature,” said artistic director Adam Sklute about Carabosse — as Maleficent is traditionally named in balletic versions. “And she has undergone significant changes.”

Formerly portrayed on the stage as an old, limping hag, Sklute gave her a makeover in 2011. Now, she is a strong and darkly beautiful fairy who wears a fabulous costume and displays lightning-fast technique.

The role has quickly become a coveted one for its technicality, power and theatricality, and Sklute said casting this empress of evil was no small task.

“Carabosse is a beautiful, vain drama queen who is strong and powerful,” he said.

Along with being technically astute, he said, the dancer who portrays her must possess a fearless command.

“I look for women who aren’t afraid to take chances,” he said. “Allison (DeBona) has a presence, a command when she walks in a room.”

For those who tuned into the reality show, there’s little argument.

“She’s the kind of person that gets noticed the minute she steps onto the stage, and she brings that strength into this role,” Sklute said.

Also dancing the dark fairy is soloist Emily Adams, and that may come as a surprise to fans used to seeing Adams cast in sweeter, gentler roles.

“Emily is a fearless performer, and her theatricality is just as powerful but very different,” Sklute said. “It’s internal, complex. She draws you in — you want to know what’s going on in her head. She does a superb job of making the character multidimensional.”

For Adams, dancing the role for the first time is an exciting and challenging opportunity.

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