Ballerina Mi Deng on performing in high-tech ‘Sleeping Beauty Dreams’

Mi Deng. Photo by Lara Bardina

Principal dancer Mi Deng is the most successful and famous ballerina hailing from China, having danced with many of the world’s best companies throughout her 20 year career.

Mi Deng steps into the role as Princess in the high-tech reimagined Sleeping Beauty Dreams, sharing the role with ballet-star Diana Vishneva and dancing with former Dutch National Ballet principal Marijn Rademaker.

Sleeping Beauty Dreams is the first-ever, unique combination of contemporary dance, 3D visual technologies, light and modern music, which explores the age-old fairytale of Sleeping Beauty and for the first time, reveals what the Princess dreamt about during her 100-year slumber.

We asked Mi Deng about this exciting tech-twist on the classic Sleeping Beauty:

How does this role compare to the traditional classical Sleeping Beauty?

An excellent question, I’ve been dancing the classic Sleeping Beauty since I was 15 years old. My whole dancing career started with this role. I know precisely how a classical princess should behave on stage.

This time, Sleeping Beauty Dreams has entirely changed my vision of the Princess! She doesn’t need to be elegant or royal; she is just a woman who is facing her fears, nightmares, and fighting for her life on her own.

For me, this time, I’m playing a powerful character, more like a real person fighting for their own life’s ups and downs.

What has been the most exciting element in preparing to dance the role of Princess?

For sure that would be dancing the same role with Ms. Diana Vishneva! This has been our second time working together in the same role as the Princess for Sleeping Beauty Dreams. We worked together back from 2010-2011 when I was in Montreal, Canada, both times for me are priceless and precious! I’ve learned so many things from Diana; she is always such an inspiration for my career as well as in a real-life. This time, I have prepared myself physically, because I knew this would be a very contemporary piece with the new technology being used on stage.

How does the use of technology and electronic music impact your performance?

For me, this is very new and challenging. I always have to be aware of how I move so the sensors can react to the big screen behind me, which I’m not used to it.

Lots of sensors are set in different parts of my body. When I’m dancing on the floor or doing the duets that will be an issue I have to face. If I’m not aware of where I have all those sensors, they might fall off when I move and no interaction will happen on the screen…technically I can’t let it happen.

Music offers different energy from all the electronic beats, notes, phrases, and of course, there will be no equal counts in it. I have to get familiar with all the music episodes to be sure I’m dancing in the right notes or beats, which will challenge my musical ears.

Mi Deng
Mi Deng, Principal Dancer

What has been the most challenging aspect preparing for the performance?

I have to say it’s a mentality; and I’m a kind of dancer who very much likes to prepare myself in advance for my next coming. Whichever works I need to do, I need to get involved in the situation and getting myself rooted as quick as I can; during the rehearsal period I didn’t have so much time for my old habits, still, I guess I adjusted myself to find a new way to fade-in to the situation quite well.

What inspired you to get involved in Sleeping Beauty Dreams?  

First of all, the story of Sleeping Beauty Dreams ultimately brings me a different sense compared to the classical one which everybody knows of the story and music in general.

Sleeping Beauty Dreams helped me discovered the Princess’s dreams during her 100-year slumber, which hasn’t been told.  Also, the most exciting part for me is to be part of this incredible international team!

What do you hope audiences feel from Sleeping Beauty Dreams?

I hope that the audience can sense the atmosphere that this is not a fairytale, that they don’t expect sparkles or a crown. This is a story of what the Princess dreams, and how she faces her fears. We tell a different story from the classical version.

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