On her 16th birthday, Princess Aurora pricks herself on a distaff and falls sound asleep. Prince Désiré goes hunting, a Fairy shows him a vision of the sleeping Princess, he dances with her still asleep. But it takes over two hours to straighten her affairs. . . . Because it is the longest ballet ever written and one of the most elaborate, Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty is seldom danced entire. The Philadelphia Ballet Company last week made musical history by giving the first U. S.*performance without a cut.
Hundreds of ballet lovers, even some from California, traveled to attend the performance. They were loud in praise of Catherine Littlefield who directs the troupe, plans its choreography, serves as its premiere danseuse. They marveled that 100 dancers and the 85 musicians of the Curtis Institute orchestra could make such a large fairy tale so lively.
People were struck by the sparkling costumes, an ingenious unfolding backdrop, a big spidery web which the Prince had to rip aside to reach the Princess. The dancers were more energetic than exact. Russian Alexis Dolinoff, as Prince Désiré, was a worse dancer than U. S.-born Thomas Cannon (Prince-from-the-North). As the heroine, Miss Littlefield danced cleanly and classically.
Philadelphia has long been thankful to the Littlefields who make it eminent in ballet. Catherine Littlefield was born there 32 years ago. She began to study in her mother's dancing studio when she was 3. At 16, she got a job in Ziegfeld's Sally, later studied in Paris, went back to Philadelphia to head the ballet of the Philadelphia Grand Opera.
From that nucleus grew the Littlefield Ballet, later the Philadelphia Ballet Company. When, in 1932, Stokowski gave the world premiere of the Mexican ballet H. P. (see col. 3), Catherine Littlefield plotted the choreography. Alexis Dolinoff danced the lead. When the Philadelphia Ballet ran short of men a year ago, Catherine Littlefield signed up her air-pilot brother, Carl. Last week he made a graceful Prince-from-the-West, easily outstripped the other minor characters. Another Littlefield, young sister Dorothie, also filled in ably.
Bills for the Philadelphia Ballet are paid by Catherine's rich husband Philip Leidy. General opinion was that the Sleeping Beauty cost him $10,000. Mr. Leidy, who loves ballet as much as the law he practices, first met Catherine Littlefield when she was dancing for the Philadelphia Grand Opera which his mother supported. Nobody knows how much their European tour will cost next summer. Miss Littlefield will take her troupe to Paris, Brussels, The Hague and London. She boasts that hers is the first U. S. ballet to venture into Europe.
*Mikhail Mordkin & his ballet gave a version of the Sleeping Beauty last December at Waterbury, Conn., but without an orchestra.