The Sleeping Beauty, by Birmingham Royal Ballet, at Birmingham Hippodrome
For all its fairytale exquisiteness, The Sleeping Beauty is a big ask for the dancer in the title role, demanding rock solid technique, stamina and the ability to portray one of the most sketchy leading characters in classical ballet.
It also requires nerves of steel for the legendary will-she-won’t-she rose adagio of unsupported attitudes and arabesques on pointe.
Nao Sakuma met the challenge of Princess Aurora in her trademark style, all stunning technical skill and delicate beauty. Her pairing with Chi Cao is formidable and grows better by the season.
One feels that should the charismatic duo misplace a foot, they would do so with aplomb and be applauded for it.
Cao, as Prince Florimund, was technically spot-on, every soaring leap crisply landed, every beaten step and every turn finished with precision.
In contrast, the entrance of the evil party-pooper Fairy Carabosse is darkly dramatic – and never more so than when executed by the queen of dramas Marion Tait. It’s worth buying a ticket just to see her mesmerising masterclass in the art of mime and the withering look. Less is always more for Tait.
Andrea Tredinnick as the serene Lilac Fairy had the tougher task though, her non-dancing character being insipidly goody-goody and yet essential to the narrative as it is her intervention that literally changes Aurora’s fate and provides the happy-ever-after ending.
The lengthy work was created by Marius Petipa in 1890 and with its fine Tchaikovsky score, is a classic example of the great Russian ballets.
In 1984 Sir Peter Wright sprinkled his own fairy dust on the original, adding some new choreography and insight to create yet another winner for BRB. More than a quarter of a century later, his production continues to sparkle, complemented by Philip Prowse’s opulent black and gold sets and glittering costumes.
Running time: two hours, 50 minutes. Performances on March 3-6 and 11-13.