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Review: Prince of the Pagodas @ Birmingham Hippodrome

There are few more eagerly awaited events in the dance world than a new ballet. The old favourites, like Swan Lake and The Nutcracker come round regularly and with good reason, but there’s always room for something new.

BRB is doubly blessed in this respect. Not only does it have the great repertoire and tradition of the Royal Ballet at its fingertips but its Director David Bintley is not only an astute company leader nurturing dancers and beguiling audiences but also an original choreographer. He’s blessed BRB’s repertoire over the years with a plethora of new works, many of which have become firm favourites. Edward II, Hobson’s Choice and ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café are just three that spring immediately to mind.

His latest full-length work The Prince of the Pagodas is a huge colourful spectacle in the great western tradition of art celebrating eastern culture. Created in association with the National Ballet of Japan it is conceived on the truly grand scale,

The first act where Princess Belle is presented with four suitors strongly references The Sleeping Beauty complete with its own rose adagio, the pinnacle of classic ballet, and this too is a tale of the supernatural. In the second act Belle travels to the exotic and magical kingdom of the Salamander Prince before returning in the final act to mortal world of the court.

But forget the plot – the best ballets are all excuses for marvellous dance, and this is no exception. The Prince of the Pagodas is pure spectacle, filled with colour and light, fabulous costumes, dramatic sets and endlessly inventive set pieces whose intention is to delight. It even has a charmingly happy ending.

The night I saw it Momoko Hirata was delightful in the long and demanding role of the princess, while Joseph Caley made a noble Salamander Prince. Special mention must go to Elisha Willis, usually better known for her sweet portrayals as the evil Empress Epine while Rory Mackay astonished as the old and ailing Emperor.

A lavish evening that had the midlands first night buzzing.

The Prince Of The Pagodas runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday (March 1) For tickets phone the box office on 0844 338 5000 or visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com.

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