Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Aladdin at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘full of Eastern promise’
Originally made for the National Ballet of Japan, David Bintley’s Aladdin is an efficacious antidote to the panto versions at this time of year. Disney may have the songs but Birmingham Royal Ballet has the dancers and the lush vivacity of Carl Davis’s Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky-inspired score more than compensates.
Visually, it is a feast: a souk in ‘old Arabia’ is realised in a set of many carpets, a bath house comes complete with lightly steamed odalisques and a cave is entered by the ribcage of some prehistoric beast.
Bintley’s choreography is never less than elegant, shifting ensembles around the stage with the graceful flurries of wind-blown leaves. The eight Desert Winds are notably erotic, distracting young Aladdin at the behest of the wicked Mahgrib. Bintley’s attempt to emulate Balanchine’s Jewels in the cave scene might be an ambition too far but the regal Gold and Silver quartet is a prime example of the company’s exacting standards in phrasing, interpretation and coordination.
There are enough illusions to satisfy the youngest audience including an impressive blue genie or Djinn who floats in a cloud of smoke, a magic carpet that travels around the stage and not one but two dragon dances.
Quite what Chinese dragon dances are doing in old Arabia is open to question, but who cares? It may be more show than tell, but what a show.