Taking on the world famous Tchaikovskys's 'Sleeping Beauty' might seem like a mammoth undertaking but for Alan Foley, artistic director of Cork City Ballet, it's the culmination of a series of events this year to honour Joan Denise Moriarty, one of this country's foremost exponents of ballet. Kieran O'Mahony caught up with Alan during rehearsals for the show to find out what Cork audiences can expect when the show opens in the Cork Opera House next month
It's a testament to the determination of both Alan Foley and Cork City Ballet that they have persevered with their forthcoming production of 'Sleeping Beauty' despite not receiving any Arts Council funding this year for the project. According to Alan they decided, in true Moriarty style to get on with it and do it anyway.
"Obviously we were very disappointed with the decision, not least because of the year that's in it but the thing is that they seem to be changing the goalposts so often that it's impossible to know why we weren't successful. Nevertheless the show must go on and I think it's going to be the biggest and brightest production we've ever done, not least because a number of weeks ago I managed to secure Elena Evseeva, a leading ballerina with Mariinsky (Kirov). Because I've been back and forth to Russia over the years and have built up contacts I was able to get her to agree to dance for this production," said Alan.
"Bringing this production is basically the culmination of a year long series of events to mark the centenary celebrations of Joan Denise Moriarty, who was my ballet teacher and also the leader of Irish ballet for many years. 'Sleeping Beauty' is essentially the final event in the year long celebration of Joan.
"It's a massive undertaking as it requires a huge cast, a massive set of costumes and a big set. I always said I'd never do this production until I had everything in place as it was her favourite ballet, and thankfully this year everything was in place to make this production possible."
As well staging 'Sleeping Beauty', Alan and his team performed a new adaptation of Joan's classic piece, 'The Playboy of the Western World' earlier in the year and they also held a symposium to discuss her work and her relevance to Irish ballet and culture.
A summer school was also held in July where the best of Russian and Ireland ballerinas gathered at the Firkin Crane, home of Cork City Ballet which Joan Denis had envisaged at the permanent home of for Cork ballet. She was also instrumental in acquiring it. There is also an exhibition running there all year dedicated to her memory and it includes the many awards, costumes and other memorabilia that she had gathered over her lifetime.
"She was a tough taskmaster alright, I went to her at the age of 14 and she frightened the life out of me and I left. When I returned a year later I said I'd stay on the condition that she wouldn't put me in tights. She agreed but yet three months later I was on stage at the Opera House wearing tights."
Alan went on to become the first Irish dancer to go to study ballet at the world famous Kirov Ballet in St Petersbourg at the age of 19 and also went on to study at the School of American Ballet in New York, something Joan Denise was very proud of.
As artistic director of Cork City Ballet, Alan has been planning the production of 'Sleeping Beauty' for about two years and it will feature a number of Irish dancers along with an international cast too. Irish dancers taking part in this spectacular production include Patricia Crosbie, Clare Skelly and Lorcan O'Neill. With five weeks to go before the opening, Alan is currently organising visas and work permits for the Russian dancers which can sometimes cause him headaches.
"Whenever I have Russian dancers coming, I'm never calm until I know they're in the country and standing in front of me. It can sometimes be difficult processing their visas so I'd be always worried about it. But it's worth it to have the calibre of dancers like them who are the top of their game in the world. The biggest buzz I get is from bringing people to see ballet for the first time and I love bringing beauty into peoples' lives."
Alan also points out that even if you have never been to a ballet before, then 'Sleeping Beauty' is the one, simply because it has everything including a wonderful score, stunning costumes, a magnificent set and most of all exquisite dancing.
'Sleeping Beauty will run at Cork Opera House from Thursday 22 November to Saturday 24 November at 8pm with a matinee show on Saturday at 2.30pm. See www.corkoperahouse.ie for more information.