Prince of the Pagodas was the ballet that made Darcey Bussell a star. In 1989, she was just 20 years old when she tripped sweetly onto the Covent Garden stage as Kenneth MacMillan's Princess Rose, a role the choreographer created for the young talent. The story is a fairy tale about a princess banished by her crabby sister who then steals the crown from her dozy papa. The exiled goody braves various adventures before encountering her fiance, the Prince of the Pagodas, who has been transformed into a salamander. The Princess and her amphibian sidekick rescue her father from her sibling's evil clutches and everyone dances happily ever after. It's perhaps surprising that the ballet doesn't feature more often. The reason is that it didn't have the pull of standards like Swan Lake or Romeo and Juliet. Why? Well, when in doubt blame Benjamin Britten. Ballet audiences are notoriously conservative in their musical tastes. On the whole they like a ballet they can hum and Britten's multi-faceted musical world tour never had them whistling their way home along Bow Street. A pity, because the score is a grand one and one the orchestra love to play. Furthermore, the ballet simultaneously showcases the strengths of two ballerinas and provides a virtuoso role for athletic little dancers like Tetsuya Kumakawa who created the role of the fool when he was only 17. Will he be past it at 24? Find out on Thursday.
EYE ON THE NEW
Next time your granny complains about the walk to the off-licence remind her that 84-year-old Jane Dudley is still dancing even after three hip replacements. See for yourself at Hammersmith's Riverside Studios tonight.