Lucas: Hilton Head dance company passing on a love of 'The Sleeping Beauty'

By Mindy Lucas
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When Karena Brock-Carlyle was a little girl, her parents took her to see “The Sleeping Beauty” starring prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn.

“I was enthralled,” said the Hilton Head Dance School’s artistic director and co-founder. “And when Margot came out, I said, ‘I have to do that. That’s for me.’”

Brock-Carlyle, who went on to become a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre dancing several of the ballet’s lead roles herself, said that first introduction to “The Sleeping Beauty” was something she has never forgotten.

Now, she and her husband, John Carlyle, co-founder and artistic director for the school, are inspiring a new generation of dancers to fall in love with the full-length story ballet.

Like “The Nutcracker,” “The Sleeping Beauty” also features the music of Tchaikovsky, but the ballet — which tells the tale of Princess Aurora and her true love Prince Florimund — is twice as long as the holiday production and includes a number of lead roles.

“The great thing is we are capable of doing full-length ballets,” said Carlyle, who sat the company down for a serious heart-to-heart about what it would take to perform such a program. And even though it will take every member of their nearly 30-member company to pull it off, in the end it wasn’t that tough a sell, he said.

“They’ve really been pouring everything they have into it,” he added. “And now that we’re close, a special feeling has come over the company.”

The ballet also will feature a number of guest artists from Atlanta and Charlotte and as far away as New York City.

Anna Porter, who performs the role of Princess Aurora, or the sleeping beauty, will dance alongside real-life “true love,” husband Journy Wilkes-Davis, who dances the part of Prince Florimund.

The Carlyles both said there is a palpable chemistry between the two audiences will just have to see — a chemistry that translates beautifully on stage.

“They are just so kind and gentle and it shows in the way they work with each other,” Carlyle said.

And just as Brock-Carlyle was first inspired by Margot Fonteyne all those years ago, the two said they hope the ballet’s leads will now inspire a new generation of dancers.

“It’s really special that Karena is handing this choreography over to these young dancers,” Carlyle said.

Brock-Carlyle said she is often reminded of what the great Danish ballerina Toni Lander used to say about a dancer’s duty.

“She would say it’s a dancer’s duty to pass this on,” she said. “Not only technique-wise but the love of it as well. You just can’t keep it to yourself.”


The Hilton Head Dance Theatre will present “The Sleeping Beauty” Friday April 1 through Sunday April 3, at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina at 14 Shelter Cove Lane, Hilton Head.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets are $35; $25 for ages 15 and younger.

To purchase call 843-842-2787 or visit