In rehearsal, Vivienne Kibble as Carabosse with her attendants. Pictures: Andy Gale

Sleeping Beauty Dreams

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome

The Hippodrome is a huge stage to fill and fill it this cast of youngsters did with enthusiasm, charm and no small amount of talent in this specially adapted version of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet.

Birmingham Royal Ballet is currently performing Sir Peter Wright’s stunning version of The Sleeping Beauty and the Dreams version gives the young cast a chance to dance on the same stage with the same set as the professional company in their own version of the full length ballet.

The adapted ballet, which runs to two hours, places more emphasis on ensemble dances to incorporate a cast of more than 60 young, and not so young, dancers who are part of the ballet company’s LEAP programme (Learning, Engagement, Access & Participation department).

The young cast is augmented by BRB dancers with Jonathan Payn as King Florestan and Rory Mackay as Catalabutte, the master of ceremonies, both principal character artists and both reprising the roles they play in the current professional production.

BRB dancers also perform the two most demanding roles with first soloist Beatrice Palma quite superb as Princess Aurora and principal dancer Tzu-Chao Chou her dashing Prince, providing a shortened but still quite divine pas de deux.

But BRB have their own Sleeping Beauty production and this is about the chance of a dream performance on a huge stage in a major theatre for a cast of mainly dance students and they grabbed it with both hands – and some precise and delicate footwork and technique.


Age is no barrier in LEAP, it is about giving anyone the opportunity to dance and Eileen McKendry-Gray stopped dancing at the age of 12 then started again at 44 and did not look out of place at all as the regal Queen.

Another adult in the cast was Lisa Garvey, quite superb in the important role of The Lilac Fairy, the goody in this fairy tale. Up against her is the baddy, the fairy Carabosse, danced by Vivienne Kibble, who hits 60 this year. She was bad enough, in a good way if you see what I mean, to garner some enthusiastic, good natured boos at the curtain call.

As a teacher at Warwick and Leamington Academy of Dance her pupils can be proud of her.

The ballet’s prologue sports three cavaliers, William Roberts, William Middup, Nicholas Thurbin as an athletic trio with some impressive leaps and entrechats. And as this is a fairy tale it has to have a whole bevy of fairies, with Beauty, Phoebe Jones; Honesty, Amelia Wyatt; Modesty, Alyssia Power; Song, Lily-Marie Le Blanc; Temperament, Mia Ward and Joy, Mio Kumada.

Six young ladies who danced with grace, skill and precision in quite demanding roles

Age and experience meant pointe work in the main was avoided, not that it mattered with some precise and co-ordinated footwork with a large corps, pas de quatres and individual dances from the likes of Lily Lewin as Red Riding Hood and Joshua McKenzie as the Wolf.

There was an impressive pas de deux as the Bluebirds from Adrielly Cordeiro, of Nimble Dance Company, who’s ambition is to dance with BRB and William Roberts, currently dancing with the Academy of Northern Ballet, another hoping for a career in professional dance. The pair danced well together with Adrielly the only Dreams dancer en pointe.

pas de quatre

Many of the dancers are at ballet and dance studios, with 6 current BRB Dance Track students and 4 previous Dance Track students with Dance Track being BRB’s community programme working with 45 Birmingham schools to provide fun dance workshops for year 1 pupils.

Established in 1997 some 36,000 pupils have auditioned for Dance Track with some 3,244 being successful with 100 children a year showing an aptitude for dance invited to join the Dance Track programme providing free weekly dance classes with BRB dance staff.

Some 130 students or so have gone on to secure training with The Royal Ballet School Junior Associates or Elmhurst Young Dancers at Birmingham’s Elmhurst Ballet School, with 30 or so graduating into vocational training at age 11 with those schools.

Not all want to become professional dancers, some dance because dance studios and Dance Track have given them the means to do something they loved and Dreams gives both those who want to be dancers and these who just love to dance the chance to perform on a professional stage with professional sets and costumes in a full length ballet coached and directed by professional BRB staff.

Directed by former BRB dancers Rachel Hester and Jenny Murphy, with music arranged by Andrew Kisty, the result was a youthful wonderful ballet full of determination and infectious enthusiasm, danced by a talented cast wh were, above all, awash with pure joy and, from the smiles at the end, a deserved sense of achievement.

Roger Clarke


BRB’s The Sleeping Beauty continues to 02-03-24.


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