Beauty awakening

Momoko Hirata, Laura-Jane Gibson, Samara Downs, Angela Paul and Callie Roberts as Fairies. Photo: Roy Smiljanic

The Sleeping Beauty

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome


ROMANTIC, soaring, symphonic music, sumptuous sets, glorious costumes, superb dancing – when it comes to Birmingham Royal Ballet you could almost have that on a save/recall key such is the level of consistency.

The company is also developing strength in depth from promising young artists to seasoned principals. On Wednesday it was the turn of Iain Mackay and Jenna Roberts to strut their stuff as Prince Florimund and Princess Aurora.

Jenna seems to be becoming more assured each season and danced the role as a Princess should with elegance, style and confidence complemented by the athletic Mackay who has that ability shared with the best football strikers of appearing to hang in the air.

His lifts appear effortless and the Grand pas de deux in act three was a delight by a couple who danced so well together, earning a standing ovation. One of Mackay's solos had so many spins even the audience were dizzy and Jenna displayed some great balance and some stunning footwork

The final act is a celebration of the awakened princess and is full of cameo dances with coquettish Emily Smith as the white cat to Kit Holder's Puss in Boots while Yasuo Atsuji and Céline Gittens produced a dramatic Bluebird and Enchanted Princess balanced by the light hearted Red Riding Hood and the Wolf from Jade Heusen and Tom Rogers.

Yvette Knight, Delia Mathews, Feargus Campbell and Steven Monteith produced some excellent dancing with good co-ordination in the pas de quattre.

The Prologue also gave us some lovely solos this time from Natasha Oughtred, Arancha Baselga, Maureya Lebowitz, Ruth Brill, who showed remarkably quick feet, Angela Paul and Céline Gittens, again, as, respectively, the fairies of Beauty, Honour, Modesty, Song, Temperament and joy.

Iain Mackay as Prince Florimund; Photo Bill Cooper

Rory Mackay was subservient enough as the Master of Ceremonies while Samara Downs and Wolfgang Stollwittzer made a regal elegant royal couple.

The two main protagonists though are the evil fairy Carabosse, who took umbrage at not being invited to the party to celebrate Aurora's birth, and the fairy godmother figure of The Lilac Fairy, danced with a wonderfully warm smile by the statuesque Yijing Zhang, who danced as if she was really enjoying herself, carrying the audience with her.

Carabosse, danced by Callie Roberts, had a good evil cackle on her and with her slinking attendants, who looked like extras left over from some forgotten horror B-movie, did her best to put the frighteners on and she did manage the old spindle trick with the pricked finger in an attempt to kill off the princess, thwarted and commuted to a sleep needing a kiss from a passing prince by the Lilac Fairy, which gave us an extra act and a change of scenery.

The design was by Philip Prowse and gave us a huge, elegant palace which became overgrown by weeds, and undergrowth for a middle act all cleverly lit by Peter Teigen from the original lighting by Mark Jonathan.

As usual the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, under Paul Murphy, was the final member of the cast, producing another high quality performance which would stand alone in a concert hall. A special mention for some outstanding solo violin playing. We are never told who but assume it was leader Robert Gibbs.

The choreography was by Peter Wright in his 1984 production and, from the 1890 premiere, Marius Petipa.

With a soaring acTchaikovsky score this is classical, romantic ballet at its best. To 12-10-13.

Roger Clarke

09-10-13 performance

And waking-up in the other corner


EVEN if this was the first ballet you had ever seen, you couldn't fail to be amazed by the quality of the dancing, music, costumes and scenery.

Maureya Lebowitz as the Fairy of Modesty and Jonathan Caguioa as her Cavalier. Photo Roy Smiljanic

Sir Peter Wright's production is simply breathtaking as the BRB present the timeless fairtale about a beautiful princess who falls into a hundred-year sleep after pricking her finger on a spindle.

The curse is delivered by the black-clad Fairy Carabosse, peeved that she hasn't been invited to Princess Aurora's christening, but fortunately the Lilac Fairy (Jenna Roberts) decrees that a kiss from a prince will eventually awake her.

The story is performed to Tchaikovsky's classical score played impeccably by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Koen Kessels, and Mark Jonathan's lighting, recreated by Peter Teigen, adds considerably to the overall enjoyment.

Costumes are sumptuous, and the dancing of Nao Sakuma, as Princess Aurora, and Chi Cao (Prince Florimund) is a sheer delight. The reception the pair receive at the final curtain says it all.

Outstanding performances, too, from Arancha Baselga,  Angela Paul, Feargus Campbell and Steven Monteith in the pas de quatre at the start of act III, while Kit Holder and Yvette Knight excel as Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat. A clever piece full of humour and skilla.

Marion Tait is full of menace in the role of Carabosse, and there is a memorable scene when she arrives at the christening with her six, evil-looking henchmen. A spectacular finale brings the production to a close with a cascade of golden tinsel.

Choreography is by Peter Wright and Marius Petipa in a stunning ballet which runs to 12.10.13

Paul Marston

08-10-13 performance


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