A Dark Twist on a Classic Tale: Awakening Beauty

A Dark Twist on a Classic Tale: Awakening Beauty

“Awakening Beauty” is a spellbinding production brought to life by the collaborative efforts of Garrett Ammon, Artistic Director of Wonderbound, Tom Hagerman, Composer, Musician, and Collaborator, and Dawn Fay, Wonderbound President. Meticulously crafted over nearly three years, this ballet is a testament to their creative vision and dedication. Inspired by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s original score and the timeless story of Sleeping Beauty, their rendition takes a dark turn, drawing from the depths of classic fairy tales such as “Sun, Moon, and Talia.”

As the ballet unfolds, the audience is enveloped in live music by Tom Hagerman and six talented musicians, setting the stage for a journey through the complexities of human experience. The story begins with the introduction of Talia, an innocent young girl surrounded by the love of her parents. Yet, as the narrative progresses in Act I, we witness Talia grappling with the harsh realities of life – from family strife to the cruelty of childhood bullies, and even to a harrowing assault.

In the scene titled “A Garden Party,” Talia’s dream-like existence is depicted with stunning precision. Dancers mirror each other’s movements, while changes in lighting and ethereal vocalizations from a live singer heighten the sense of surrealism. 

One of my favorite aspects of the show was the mobile set, which moved seamlessly with the dancers, serving as a visual metaphor for Talia’s shifting reality. It was truly interesting to watch a house turn into a school, a chair turn into a backpack, a cafe turn into a club. A pivotal scene in the narrative is “Caught,” where Talia’s world is torn asunder. Standing in the doorway of her home, she desperately hangs onto her reality as her parents’ tumultuous relationship ends. The house begins to spin, culminating in the physical splitting of their home in two as she tries to hold it together. The symbolism is palpable, reflecting the emotional turmoil of a family on the brink of collapse.

Wonderbound in performance. Photo by: Amanda Tipton

Act I comes to a head in the iconic party scene, accompanied by the timeless melody of “Once Upon a Dream.” Bathed in hues of purple and blue, the stage transforms into a magical dance floor, drawing the audience into a moment of fleeting bliss before the story takes its darkest turn.

In Act II, Talia embarks on a new chapter of her life, marked by resilience and hope. It opens with a lively train scene, injecting a sense of energy and optimism back into the narrative, we as the audience even found ourselves laughing.Yet tragedy strikes once more, leading her down a path fraught with danger and despair. It is through these trials that Talia finds herself entangled in a cult. But ultimately, she reunites with her family in the heartwarming final scene. As Talia’s journey comes full circle, the audience is left spellbound by the resilience of the human spirit and the power of love. 

Wonderbound in performance. Photo by: Martha Wirth

This being the second performance I’ve seen at Wonderbound. I must commend the company for their consistent excellence in portraying child-like innocence, as evidenced by their incredible costume design. In this coming-of-age story, the costumes did an amazing job of reflecting each stage of life for Talia, adding depth and authenticity to the production. Additionally, Wonderbound shines as a company by providing multiple art experiences in one, from the ballet itself to the incredible art pieces featured in the entrance area, spotlighting local artists.

In conclusion, “Awakening Beauty” is a masterful reinterpretation of a classic tale, weaving together elements of darkness and light to create an unforgettable ballet experience. Garrett Ammon and Tom Hagerman, along with their talented team, have created a production that resonates deeply with audiences, offering a journey into the heart of human emotion and resilience.


Patrice Harris

Patrice Harris is a new writer for Presenting Denver. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Patrice’s passion for the arts started at a young age. She participated in various forms of art, including theater, piano, and visual art.
Patrice attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Health and Exercise Science, and Psychology. During her time at university, she continued to explore her passion for the arts by participating in various creative programs and events.
After graduation, Patrice began working as a Resident Services Coordinator at Mercy Housing, where she supported and empowered residents in need of services and resources. There she connected residents to dance with workshops from Cleo Parker Robinson Dance.
In 2022, Patrice began working at WellPower, where she coordinates facility improvements and engages in community relations. In her free time, Patrice continues to write dance reviews and explore her love for the arts.