Evolution and revolution within the ballet Sleeping Beauty
: a choreomusical analysis of productions by the Royal Ballet (1939-2006) and Matthew Bourne (2012), including new software applications

  • Elizabeth McLean

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The Sleeping Beauty ballet, originally choreographed by Marius Petipa to a score by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, has an enduring appeal, inspiring reinterpretations by a diverse range of choreographers. The resulting variety of contexts, movement styles, narratives and meanings provides a rich seam for choreomusical research. This thesis contributes to the existing body of knowledge through a choreomusical analysis of the Royal Ballet’s history of Sleeping Beauty productions and Matthew Bourne’s interpretation. The Sleeping Beauty has become the signature work in the Royal Ballet’s repertoire, and the strand of productions provides a unique historical context in which to situate a choreomusical analysis.
    This research adopts a comparative approach and addresses how The Sleeping Beauty develops a tradition and accrues new meanings with each setting. Primarily through the analysis of filmed recordings, many sourced from national archives, it was possible to explore the evolution of a major choreographic work over time, showing differently nuanced narratives, across music and dance. The research revealed different choreographic and choreomusical styles, including those of Ashton, MacMillan, Wheeldon and Bourne. It also unveiled the different choreomusical performance styles of dancers in key roles such as Aurora and the Prince.
    This project developed new techniques for analysis including how to determine the characteristics or parameters that define a Sleeping Beauty dance production, how to analyse a production derived from a malleable score, and energy studies. For the first time, energy studies are underpinned by recent neuroscience research. The development of these new techniques adds a greater selection of tools to the choreomusical analysis toolbox, which in turn improves our ability to understand the work of choreographers and composers. They offer us the chance to understand how we hear the music and see the dance differently when in interaction with each other or when they are analysed together. !
    Date of Award24 Jul 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorStephanie Jordan (Supervisor), Geraldine Morris (Supervisor) & Anna Pakes (Supervisor)


    • Choreomusical
    • Music
    • Dance
    • Ballet
    • Sleeping Beauty
    • Royal Ballet
    • Matthew Bourne
    • Tchaikovsky

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