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Sleeping Beauty - Birmingham Royal Ballet

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Birmingham Royal Ballet has revived its production of Sleeping Beauty for a run at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham - a sports stadium that converts remakably well into a theatre.

Production is by Peter Wright, first shown in 1984. It has very handsome designs by Philip Prowse.

I saw two casts. First, Asta Bazeviciute, (trained in Minsk) partnered by Andrew Murphy. She's new to the company this season and I thought she made a lovely Aurora. She's tall, with really nice legs and feet and (generally) beautiful line. I liked the way she showed the stylistic changes in the choreography; bright and appealing in ActI, romantic and yearning in the Vision Scene and real ballerina grandeur for the last Act. She seems to have technique to spare. My only cavil would be that occasionally her ports de bras were not as good as they might be. Murphy isn't really the kind of dancer for Florimund, but he's a good enough artist to make something worthwhile of every role he's given.

Another newcommer, Michael Revie who has been dancing with the Zurich ballet also danced Florimund. Very stylish, and he made more dramatic sense of all the running around and generalised yearning in Act II than I've seen for many a long year. Nice clean dancing, the only problem is that he's barely tall enough to partner tiny Rachael Peppin, who was a sweet, bright Aurora.

I thought the company was dancing to a really good standard, and I just don't understand remarks in the press about these dancers being unable to dance the classics.

Two nice Bluebirds; Robert Parker (very classical) and Andy Rietschel, partnered respectively by Nao Sakuma - a lovely, expressive little Japanese dancer and Elisha Willis, who is so new she doesn't even make it onto the company list.

Special mention too for the company glamour girl, Monica Zamora, who was a stunning Carabosse in a wonderful black gown and headdress. Lilac Fairy (a walking around role and also very good) was another Spaniard, Silvia Jimenez,so presumably they were able to hiss insults at each other in their native language.

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Thank you for that, Alymer -- this is a company we hardly ever hear about. We do have some members who live in this area, so if you saw this production, I hope you'll chime in.

It sounds as though the company has a Prince problem (although you note that, though not ideal, both made something of the role). And I note from the names that this, too, is no longer a predominantly British company, at least a principal/soloist level.

I'm curious about the audience -- was the house full? Did they like such an old-fashioned production? (I'm being half tongue-in-cheek with the "old-fashioned." I gather every character was the same gender he or she had been created a century ago, and that Freud took the night off?)

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I gather that in this formation the NIA can seat 3,000 people, though some of them would have a pretty distant view. I would guess that at both performances I attended the house was between two thirds and three quarters full.

And yes, despite the lack of cross dressing and Freudian sub-text, the audience really enjoyed this production. This was especially true at the matinee where there were a couple of big school parties who hissed Carabosse enthusiastically. I think that these dancers realise that making the audience interested in what you are doing is as important as achieving a perfect double pirouette.

Of 13 principals, seven trained at the Royal Ballet Upper school, although I think that Chi Cao (who incidentally won the gold medal at Varna while still in the corps de ballet) may only have done one year there.

One interesting new development is that Elmhurst, an independent school which trains dancers from age 11 upwards, is moving to Birmingham. The school already has links with BRB and I would guess that these will strengthen still further, giving the company effectively its own school.

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