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The Sleeping Beauty: Birmingham Royal Ballet Tour

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Enchanting ballet is a dream of a show
With shimmering outfits, dreamy choreography and uber-glamorous stage sets, this ballet is a fairytale come true.

The tour de force, however, is the flawless dancing of leads Nao Sakuma in the title role and Chi Cao as her prince in this production from Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB).

The Sleeping1
Fairytale scenes from Birmingham Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty


Tchaikovsky's romantic masterpiece The Sleeping Beauty, a Russian classic, also gives a nod to its past with costumes that have more than a hint of Russia about them.

At three hours long, there is plenty of detail and we start with a prologue set in a magnificent royal court. It is a haven of happiness and dancing to celebrate the christening of Princess Aurora, packed with fairies and ladies-in-waiting in shimmering dresses, tiaras and self-satisfaction.

That is until the wicked fairy - a pantomime-like Carabosse, all in black with what seems like a band of pirates at her beck and call - breaks the jubilant scene to curse our heroine.

The Sleeping Beauty
The wicked fairy Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty


Even with the Lilac Fairy's help, it means the princess will one day grow up to prick her finger on a spindle and fall asleep for 100 years.

Moving on to Princess Aurora as a young beautiful adult, Act One is a similar scene of pomp and ceremony but this time with the added bonus of Sakuma taking centre stage for some breathtaking pointe work. She seems to almost float through her routines and leaves no doubt to her talent.

But despite all efforts to protect the princess, Carbosse manages to spoil the party again by ensuring that her prediction comes true. It is left to the Lilac Fairy to put the whole palace under a sleeping spell with the princess until someone worthy can come along to wake them.

In the same way that Act One was in many ways a vehicle to promote the abilities of the female lead, Act Two does the same for the prince. Chi Cao's Prince Florimund leaps magnificently with pinpoint control on his turns and jumps, making it clear that he's a worthy dance partner and suitor for our heroine.

The Sleeping Beauty
Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao are breathtaking in The Sleeping Beauty


This act is in many ways the most enchanting and visually spectacular, particularly when the Lilac Fairy and her attendants shimmer in unison on pointed toes through a misty wood to lead the prince into the arms of Princess Aurora. A real feast for the eyes.

It is only left for the final Act Three to provide a quirky and raptuous ending to the proceedings as a series of fairytale character guests gather to celebrate.

Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat stand out with distinctively coquettish, charming choreography, while there's also crowd-pleasing routines from Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, and the Bluebird and Enchanted Princess before the two leads provide a final dazzling pas de deux.

The Sleeping Beauty, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sir Peter Wright,
Stunning sets in The Sleeping Beauty


This is a welcome return of a favourite created by BRB's former director Sir Peter Wright, although the length of the ballet may mean it is unsuitable for young children despite the enchanting costumes and fanfare.

The Sleeping Beauty
Birmingham Hippodrome - October 8-12, 2013
Sadler's Wells Theatre, London - October 17-19, 2013
Sunderland Empire Theatre - October 24-26, 2013
Theatre Royal Plymouth - October 31 - November 2, 2013

Tickets cost from £13. See www.brb.org.uk for more information.
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Why? A dream of a ballet
When: Touring until November 2, 2013
Phone: 0121 245 3500
Where: Birmingham Hippdrome, Sadler's Wells Theatre: London, Sunderland Empire Theatre and Theatre Royal Plymouth
Cost: From £13
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