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It’s hard to imagine a prettier Valentine’s gift than a visit to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “The Sleeping Beauty,” a dream of a ballet currently gracing the stage of McCaw Hall. Choreographed by Ronald Hynd (based on the 1890 original by Marius Petipa) for the English National Ballet in 1993, this is the ballet’s fifth outing at PNB — and it looks as lovely as the day it premiered here in 2001.

Peter Docherty’s sets and costumes are a wonder: delicate gold vines in a magical forest glade; shimmering blue/green gowns that seem to create their own light; a wicked witch, garbed in a vast tangle of rags; a flock of fairies hanging daintily in the air as they guard a sleeping princess. Randall G. Chiarelli’s lighting, particularly in that quiet glade, gives this fairy tale the soft, burnished beauty of a classic painting.

On Friday’s opening night, “The Sleeping Beauty” served as a joyous not-quite-farewell, as longtime principal dancer Kaori Nakamura — due to retire at the end of this season — danced the role of Princess Aurora. When she first appeared on stage in Act I, it was as if the audience suddenly exhaled: you never doubt for a second that Nakamura can handle, with grace and smiling poise, anything this fiendishly difficult role tosses at her. The tricky balances of the Rose Adagio were airy and confident; the “fish lifts” of the final pas de deux (danced with her suave Prince, Seth Orza) were precise; and Nakamura beautifully carried off Aurora’s transformation from girlish exuberance to regal maturity. This ageless ballerina owns this role, and will be greatly missed; a sentiment conveyed by the opening-night audience’s long, warm standing ovation for her.

“The Sleeping Beauty” is a long ballet, with many moments for smaller roles to shine: particularly Jonathan Porretta’s wicked Carabosse (disconcerting, though, to see him in a role that required so little dancing); Laura Tisserand, newly promoted to principal dancer, as a warm yet commanding Lilac Fairy; Leta Biasucci and Benjamin Griffiths sparkling in Act III’s charming Bluebird pas de deux. It’s the sort of evening that later haunts your dreams, in the prettiest possible way.

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Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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