English National Ballet ’s The Sleeping Beauty is worth waking up for. Kenneth MacMillan’s production for American Ballet Theatre had a fraught journey to the New York stage in 1987, but Tamara Rojo’ s company dances this Imperial classic – so crucial to the identity of British ballet – with confidence, elegance and a touch of humour.
Peter Farmer’s sets feature much delicate foliage, while Nicholas Georgiadis’ court clobber sticks to shades of cream, gold and peach, with foppish bichon frise wigs and fancy plumage.
The usual line-up of fairies in pastel tutus benevolently bestow their gifts on baby Aurora via neat solos, with Senri Kou a particularly fine and airy Songbird. Shiori Kase’s Lilac Fairy displays largesse in every flourish of her wrist, daintily squaring up to James Streeter’s pissed off Carabosse, who resembles Elizabeth I in her lead-faced Armada prime.
Carabosse’s quartet of diabolic attendants unfortunately wear odd and ill-fitting mask-cum-bald caps, which sheath their heads like hardened verruca socks. This posse of evil little egg-men leave the stage with an amusing puff of presumably sulphurous smoke.
When the malodorous vapours have cleared, it’s time for Aurora to make her famous entrance – Tchaikovsky’s expectant theme for the strings ramps up the excitement. Alina Cojocaru ’s performance is worth the anticipation. A seasoned ballerina, she brings smooth assurance to the technical challenges of the Rose Adage while never losing a sense of youthful curiosity and musical spontaneity. Joseph Caley makes a serviceable prince but Cojocaru is in a gently dazzling league of her own.