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Gorgeous, but vital ingredients missing; Coffee break Review Stravinsky: A Celebration Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff **.

TAKE a fire alarm forcing the abandonment of Stravinsky's The Firebird and everyone becomes a wit. Sadly the warmth of the audience, who took in their stride the opening night curtailment of their evening of Stravinsky just as it reached its high point, was not reflected by the ballet itself.

Technically Birmingham Royal Ballet is a company in peak form, bringing the fruits of several seasons into one Stravinsky extravaganza that should have delighted those of us who adore the music and the dances.

Yet the music of Igor Stravinsky never really came alive in the less-than-packed Wales Millennium Centre's main auditorium, where the acoustics are rather unforgiving unless you have a reasonably full house.

This triple bill of Petrushka, Le Baiser de la fee and The Firebird sandwiches a Michael Corder piece with two Fokine classics.

Yet oddly the excitement, the passion and the danger of Stravinsky just wasn't there.

Petrushka came over asamildly amusing piece of Russian folklore. Ambra Vallo, James Grundy and the splendid Alexander Campbell danced the Ballerina, the Moor and Petrushka respectively, with elan and considerable panache but the feel was of a museum piece than a living vibrant dance.

Infinitely more enjoyable was Corder's contemporary choreography for La Baiser de la fee which produced a series of exquisite tableaux, magical costumes and cuttingly sharp dance which is what we want from this company. Again Campbell delighted as the Young Man, beautifully paired with Natasha Oughtred and Gaylene Cummerfield dancing the Bride and the Fairy.

Pristine choreography in the ensemble work was consummately framed by John F.

MacFarlane's sets.

Maybe if I had seen The Firebird as the grand finale of the evening it may have had more pizzazz. It certainly has when I have seen it in the hands and feet of lesser companies and smaller musical ensembles as the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

Yes this is a gorgeous affair with Sakuma and red hot Firebird - the undisputed star of the show and Chi Cao an elegant Tsarevich and David Morse a suitably evil Kostchei.

But again at the end the feeling was of a lavish but rather cold spectacle.

Mike Smith Birmingham Royal Ballet stage Beauty And The Beast at the Wales Millennium Centre until tomorrow. The box office number is 0870 040 2000
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 24, 2008
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