The Sleeping Beauty, Royal Opera House <br/> Simply Ballroom, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London

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The Independent Culture

Watching the Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty, I don't know whether to praise or to carp. Here is one of the glories of the ballet repertory, with marvellous dancing from the principals. How can you not be happy? But, seeing a production that should be so much better, how can you not complain?

This Beauty is a restaging of the 1946 Oliver Messel production. The frame of the ballet is there: the sets are handsome, while the danced text is good. But there has been some dilution. Revising Messel's costumes, Peter Farmer has replaced bright colour with beige and pale blue. Monica Mason, the Royal Ballet's director, has chosen some weaker textual alternatives, with mime and entrances dully staged.

Most seriously, this Beauty needed better coaching. By last spring, Mason had brought the company into terrific shape; and then it faltered. A corps de ballet that had excelled in Swan Lake were stiff and edgy in Beauty. Soloists looked timid. Individual dancers shone, but nobody seemed to be giving them much help.

Alina Cojocaru is a light, delicate Aurora, her dancing shaped with a sense of drama. Having pricked her finger, she gives a feverish sway to her dancing. But she's loveliest as the dreamy vision of the second act. She spins steps into long phrases, ethereal as a cobweb.

Federico Bonelli is a gentle prince, but the drama projects less strongly than his sumptuous dancing. In his second-act solo, he builds crisp details into yearning phrases, with a velvety flow.

Last spring, Marianela Nuñez was a fine Lilac Fairy. Five months on, she's magnificent. Her dancing has a new plush texture. She dances Aurora later in the run: I can't wait.

At the Theatre Royal, the dancers of Simply Ballroom have terrifying hips. Men and women slam their pelvises about, keeping up a frantic circular grind that has nothing to do with musical or sexual response.

This tinselly show was choreographed by Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag, known from BBC's Strictly Come Dancing. It's a reminder of why ballroom went out of fashion.

'The Sleeping Beauty' is in rep to 20 December (020-7304 4000); 'Simply Ballroom' tours to 17 February 2007 ( www.qdosentertainment.co.uk/simplyballroom)

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