Because The Sleeping Beauty is based on a fairy tale it’s often marked down as a children’s ballet. It’s true that its pink costumes and pretty steps have a particular appeal for little girls, while its well-behaved Princess can seem out of sync with the bad-ass heroines of today’s street dance shows.

But that’s only if you haven’t seen it. A good production of The Sleeping Beauty, and, admittedly there are many that are not, beguiles and charms. Its dances are so detailed and so numerous, so sweet and gracious, that you are soon bowled over. The scale and ingenuity of the steps, from the heroine’s astonishing solo in the first act to the fairytale characters in the third, leave you wide-eyed with wonder.

A successful production needs a lot of good dancers with both technical finesse and the acting skills to sustain the make-believe of the story, without which it rapidly becomes little more than posh panto. Happily, The Royal Ballet has both. It’s production of The Sleeping Beauty is relatively new (meaning everything looks spruce and clean), although it is based on its famous 1949 version which is considered both an authentic retelling of the Russian original and a genuinely British ballet.

The opening night cast was Sarah Lamb as Princess Aurora and Ivan Putrov as her Prince. Lamb is a naturally restrained dancer that is perfect for the role, with Putrov’s enthusiasm sweetly winning her over. The supporting cast were equally good. Steven McRae and Laura Morera dazzled in the Blue Bird pas de deux, and Sergei Polunin confirmed his star status in the Act III pas de trois. All eyes will be on him when he makes his debut as the Prince this Saturday (7 November 2009).

Marianela Nunez was also excellent as the Lilac Fairy, a role that lesser dancers reduce to a walk-on part, while Genesia Rosato was inspired as the wicked fairy Carabosse. She is often played as a one-dimensional baddie, yet Rosato brought a sympathy to the character that made you think she’d been mistreated even if her response was disproportionate.

In rep until 24 November