Birmingham Royal Ballet's new production is a family affair, as Fionnuala Bourke discovers.

She is subjected to spiteful sneers daily, forced to do tedious tasks and physically abused by her step sisters.

But are Cinderella's siblings quite so mean in real life?

The fairytale character's tale of woe has featured in childhoods across the world since the 17th century.

Wide-eyed youngsters gasp in horror as they see their beautiful heroine dressed in rags, neglected and abused by her siblings with her wicked step mother's approval.

One of the most modern interpretations of this classic is currently being performed at the Hippodrome by Birmingham Royal Ballet.

And it features real life sisters Jenna and Callie Roberts in the lead roles.

Principal dancer Jenna, aged 27, has been cast as Cinderella while Callie, aged 24, is performing as her evil step sister Skinny.

"It's great that we get to work together. You can be honest with your sister and you can rely on her for support and she will tell you if you are doing well or not," says Callie.

"Cinderella is a great show and we were really pleased when we were told which parts we were dancing.

"Our relationship is very different to Cinderella and Skinny.

"I tend not to think about Cinderella being Jenna when we are on stage.

"I don't think, 'oh no, it's Jenna that I'm pushing around', I just think, 'this is Cinderella' - and carry on pushing!

"I suppose that's what's nice about it in a way. If I was doing it with someone else I might be scared to push them or something, like they might be mad at me, but because we are sisters there are no boundaries."

Jenna says: "It's just what Skinny does. I don't expect any special treatment from Callie, and I don't get any!''

The sisters both began dancing, quite by chance, when a ballet school just happened to open at the end of their street in their home town of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia.

Jenna was aged six and Callie aged three when they began classes at the Marie Walton-Mahon Dance Academy.

It was a move that was to change their family's life forever. It led to the sisters and their mum and dad, Sue and Greg, emigrating to Britain.

"The dance classes seemed like a fun thing to do. We had no history of ballet in our family. No one had danced professionally before, but we both really liked it and the teacher said we were really good, so we both kept doing it," says Jenna.

By the time she was 15 years-old Jenna was offered a place to develop her talent further at the Royal Ballet School in London.

She studied there for two-and-a-half years and was then employed by BRB, who she has performed with for ten years.

Callie moved to Britain four years after Jenna after she, too, was offered a place at the Royal Ballet School.

"One of the best things about dancing for the same company is that we get to see each other every day,'' says Jenna. "When I first came over I was on my own for four years. I only saw Callie once a year."

Callie says: "I was in Australia and Jenna couldn't afford to come back home that often, and I couldn't afford to come over here. We're a lot closer now. That's the best part of working together."

But when asked if there are any downsides to working together both Jenna and Callie joke: "We get to see each other every day!"

The girls have kept close ties to Australia and still follow their local football team, the Newcastle Nights.

Their mum Sue used to sell merchandise for the team before she moved to Britain with Greg, who gave up his job on the railways. They are now house parents at London Junior Ballet School.

Jenna and Callie are just one set of siblings dancing BRB director David Bintley's Cinderella this winter. They are accompanied by Glaswegian brothers Rory and Iain Mackay.

Rory, aged 34, has been cast as Major Domo and Iain, aged 32, is performing as the Prince.

"I started dancing when I was aged nine after watching the TV series Fame,'' says Rory. ''It just looked like a good school to go to rather than a normal secondary school. I thought, I could do that, so my mum took me to a dance school."

"I didn't have any trouble from any of my friends at the time because I didn't tell anyone about it. It wasn't like Billy Elliott or anything. No one knew I was going to dance classes except my family.

"I decided I would like to become a professional when I was around 14 or 15, when I had to do GCSEs and realised I couldn't do academia."

Iain says: "I started at the school at the same time as Rory. I was aged seven. He was the only boy in the ballet classes and I didn't want him to be on his own.

"Two brothers dancing in Glasgow is quite unusual. We didn't expect to be professionals when we first set out."

Rory previously danced for English National Ballet, after training at the Dance School of Scotland and Royal Ballet School.

He joined Iain at BRB in 2000.

Iain, who is married to former BRB dancer Syliva and has a three year-old son, Oscar, says: "There's not so much choreography between our parts in Cinderella. We've previously done a sword fight scene together in Romeo and Juliet, which was great fun.

"We played arch enemies. I was Romeo, Rory was Tibble. We literally beat the hell out of each other. I know how hard I can hit Rory, which is as hard as I want! Whereas other dancers might say 'not so hard', that doesn't really happen when it's your brother."

Both brothers agree that their family bond helps them to work well together and that competition is never an issue on stage.

"We've always danced very different parts," says Iain. "Rory does more of the character roles and I'm a principal dancer. We're quite competitive on the golf course, though.

"One thing you do notice with having your brother in the company is his complete honesty. If you've done badly in a show then your brother will say that was rubbish and you will know straight away that is the truth. Also, if he says you've done good then that is because he means it. It's the same for the girls. I would never say things to other dancers in the company like I say to Rory. If we fall out then we can forget about it straight away."

It is the second time the company has brought the family friendly classic, featuring giant lizzards, frogs and mice, to the Hippodrome.

It premiered at the theatre in 2010 as part of the celebrations to mark BRB's 20th anniversary in Birmingham and was broadcast by the BBC on Christmas Day.

It is one of David Bintley's most successful creations to date and brought him to work with artist and designer John Macfarlane and lighting designer David Finn.

The dancers are accompanied by The Royal Ballet Sinfonia performing Prokoviev's popular composition.

* BRB are performing Cinderella at the Hippodrome until December 9.