As an eight-year-old ballerina, Sarah Cordia made the decision to attend ballet school, dedicating a significant amount of her childhood to the art form. Dancing in performance after performance, she dreamt of eventually being front and center to tell the ballet’s story. As lead dancer Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Cordia is finally in her center stage fairytale.
A timeless tale full of romance and suspense, The Sleeping Beauty captures audiences worldwide. The over a century-old ballet follows the tale of Aurora, a princess who is cursed by an evil fairy.
Some of the largest names in the ballet world have had the privilege of dancing the role of Aurora, and now Cordia will be added to that list.
Cordia will star as Princess Aurora in Nashville Ballet’s version of The Sleeping Beauty on Sept. 23 and 24. The ballet will be accompanied by music from the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, and the performance will take place in the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Andrew Jackson Hall.
The dancers have been preparing for months for this performance, especially Cordia.
“I got an awareness that I might be given this opportunity back in January or February. I already started thinking about my weak points in my dancing and how I could start to strengthen them to prepare for this role,” said Cordia.
The required technique for this performance is extremely difficult, even for the most skilled dancers. The Sleeping Beauty is said to have some of the hardest steps of any ballet, not just for the solo performers but for the corps de ballet as well.
“As a dancer, you can’t hide from your weaknesses in this ballet, so if a shape on my body is stronger on my left side than my right side, I have to do both. They have to both look good,” said Cordia. “You are really working on these weaknesses, and you really see where you stand. Cardiovascular-wise, it’s hard. There’s so much dancing.”
The stamina of this dancing dates back to 1890, when Marius Petipa created the original choreography. This choreography has remained remarkably similar throughout the years with very minor changes. This constancy is uncommon for a ballet.
“It’s pretty classical. Some of the steps that I am doing are the same steps that were done in 1890. We have been doing the same steps for that long—we haven’t even had cars for that long. So many things have advanced, but we still have the same ballet. I think that’s very special,” said Cordia.
In order to perfect this choreography, Nashville Ballet has two ballet masters that work year-round with the dancers and an additional ballet master brought in from the Houston Ballet to work specifically with the lead dancers. Their job is to ensure that the choreography set by artistic director Paul Vasterling is properly executed.
The dancers’ days start at 9:00 a.m. and usually end around 6:00 p.m. This includes around five hours of pure rehearsal time, where the dancers perfect the details of the performance.
Cordia spends much of her rehearsal time trying to capture Aurora’s essence. She gains inspiration by studying previous ballerinas who performed the role of Aurora.
“The autobiography that I read this summer was on Margot Fonteyn, and she premiered this role in 1939. I was like, ‘this is so crazy!’ Here I am premiering my Aurora in 2017. It was such a cool moment to connect that,” said Cordia.
Each Aurora brings something new to the ballet, and Cordia hopes to bring an organic take to the role.
“Because it’s such a technical ballet and you have to focus on the lines in your body and making everything pure and classical, I think sometimes you can get stuck in technique and not pay attention to who Aurora is as a person,” said Cordia. “I’m really trying to make her human again. I’m trying to bring life and love and character back to her.”
See Cordia’s interpretation of Aurora and the rest of Nashville Ballet performing The Sleeping Beauty on Sept. 23 and 24.
Student rush tickets are available for the Saturday, Sept. 23 performance at 2:00 p.m. for $15.00. These tickets can be bought at TPAC’s Jackson Hall Box Office with a valid student ID anytime after 12:30 p.m. on September 23. For more details, visit the website.
Photos by Hunter Long // The Vanderbilt Hustler