A gorgeous picture book by David McAllister and Gabriela Tylesova, based on their production, is dancing into stores.

When David McAllister was 11, he saw the English National Ballet perform Rudolph Nureyev’s production of The Sleeping Beauty in Perth, and was spellbound by how lavish, beautiful and magical it was. Decades later, when he decided to direct a new Sleeping Beauty for The Australian Ballet (where he is Artistic Director), he knew that he wanted to create something equally opulent and enlisted Gabriela Tylesova to work with him as designer.

Ako Kondo and Chengwu Guo in David McAllister’s The Sleeping Beauty for The Australian Ballet. Photograph © Jeff Busby

The resulting production, which premiered in December 2015, has captivated audiences wherever it has gone, playing sold-out seasons in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. In July 2018, Adelaide will finally get to see it. Meanwhile, to coincide with this month’s return Sydney season, Little Hare (an imprint of Hardie Grant Egmont) is publishing an exquisite picture book by McAllister and Tylesova inspired by their staging, in stores from November 1.

An illustration from the book of The Sleeping Beauty by David McAllister and Gabriela Tylesova

The Sleeping Beauty was choreographed by Marius Petipa in 1890 to Tchaikovsky’s glorious score. McAllister’s version retains key passages of the original choreography, with new linking material devised in a similar style. But it’s Tylesova’s designs that take the breath away. Her sumptuous sets feature baroque and rococo elements, including twisting columns, glittering chandeliers, painted frescos and an ornate glass casket. The costumes include floating, bejeweled tutus, layered period dresses, and sparkling head-pieces in a riot of intoxicating colours.

Ako Kondo and artists of The Australian Ballet in The Sleeping Beauty. Photograph © Jeff Busby

At the end of the book there are production shots including Ako Kondo and Chengwu Guo dancing the famous Bluebird Pas de Deux. Kondo will dance Aurora in Sydney, and has also played the Lilac Fairy. “We’re so lucky that we have such beautiful costumes and sets,” she says. “One of my favourite tutus is actually the one for the Lilac Fairy. I think it’s one of the most beautiful tutus in the world.”

Illustration for The Wedding in the book

McAllister and Tylesova first discussed a picture book when they were creating the production. “But it was just such a big event it was all too hard,” says McAllister. “So, when we knew we were going to bring the production back, I said to her again, ‘what do you think about doing a book?’ And she was really into it because she loves children’s books.”

McAllister wrote a first draft, Tylesova flew to Brisbane to have another look at the production, then set to work, deciding on the page structure and creating a series of exquisite illustrations.

Ako Kondo and artists of The Australian Ballet. Photograph © Jeff Busby

“And then I rewrote it to relate a little bit more to the way she’d drawn it. So, we played off each other. In the end it was her gorgeous illustrations that made me think, ‘I reckon I can do better with the words’,” says McAllister.

“Gabriela took her designs another step further in the book because she didn’t have the restrictions of the movement and the dancers having to wear the costumes, so she took it on another flight of fantasy which is brilliant,” says McAllister admiringly.

The Party – pages from the book

“It has been fascinating to discover a new dimension to the characters and their fantastical world,” says Tylesova. “I feel our book is a visual progression of the stage production David and I created.”

The Sleeping Beauty plays at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre, November 11 – 25