Upon the arrival of new artistic director Noriko Ohara, National Ballet of Japan commissioned a new version of Sleeping Beauty, reimagined by Wayne Eagling. Ohara requested that Eagling creates a 'traditional' Sleeping Beauty. As a result, it's an orthodox production; the basic framework remains untouched, but some impressive details were added.

The ballet starts with Carabosse in the dark and the Lilac Fairy descending, suggesting that this ballet is about the conflict between good and evil. The evil fairy Carabosse is here a glamourous beauty (and a 'tutu role' on pointe) which Miwa Motojima performed with strong characterisation. Her Kabuki-inspired solo in the prologue was show-stopping. But the role of the Lilac Fairy does not have quite the same impact nor is as strong a character as Carabosse is, and the lack of contrast fails to impress. Yet, despite her flashy entrance, Carabosse loses her power in Act 2 and quietly disappears from the stage.

The other notable alteration to the traditional version was the awakening scene in Act 2. After Aurora’s awakening with the Prince’s kiss, the couple dances a romantic pas, which shows Aurora gradually falling in love with her Prince and closes with a passionate kiss. Here, Aurora is dressed in a nightgown and this duet is reminiscent of MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet Balcony pas de deux (a role Eagling is well remmbered for) It was effective, since it does seem strange that Aurora and the Prince would get married so soon after they meet, like in the usual Sleeping Beauty.

This performance featured guest dancer Vadim Muntagirov of the Royal Ballet, who was nurtured and brought into stardom by Eagling during his time at English National Ballet. Regarded as one of the finest classical dancers of his generation, he was the ideal Prince. Each small movement is elegant, his partnering is steady, and his classical technique precise. His tours en l'air are bouncy – he's got great ballon, his landings are clean and his leaps were soaring high. Muntagirov's dancing combines Russian academism and British dramatic interpretation and he drove the audience to tears with the ardent passion he showed in the Awakening pas. Sadly, this production lacks a dazzling male solo, which he deserves, with simply not enough moments in the choreography to enjoy his marvels.

Yui Yonezawa is well known for her immaculate technique, and the role of Aurora also fits her perfectly. Light and crisp, fresh as a morning rose in her entrance, she nailed the Rose Adagio with ease. Her portrayal of the Princess was youthful, full of life and curiosity, her pirouettes were all triples and she demonstrates very good musicality, but never shows off. Her transformation throughout the ballet was impressive, from the dreamy and lyrical sleeping princess in Act 2 to the glorious queen of the final act. Every single moment of her dancing was convincing, without a single wobble. Yonezawa would be a perfect ballerina if she could develop her dramatic side and convey her emotions more...but she is already a marvel.

Ayako Ono stole the show as Princess Florine, adding narrative into this small role,with soft, delicatel dancing and playful musicality. She alternated Aurora on other dates. National Ballet of Japan’s corps de ballet created a radiant atmosphere with its uniformity and controlled beauty, but – curent promotions and shifts within the company's ranks perhaps prevailing – the Fairy variations of the prologue failed to impress. Under the direction of former Artistic Director David Bintley, the company developed much more character and inherited British dance's theatrical tradition, but it seems these qualities are quickly going with some dancers seemingly not engaged in the drama.

The production's designs were lavish and elegant, but some of the costumes by Toer van Schayk were strange choices. Aurora’s costume in Act 1 was all white and simple, while the Lilac Fairy wore a decorative and heavy-looking tutu with a not-so-pretty headdress. Carabosse’s spider inspired tutu in black and green was glamourous but the corps de ballet in the Act 2's vision scene were also clad in vivid green, making the audience feel as if we were in a jungle. The production was successful, and the dancers great, but was there really a need to create such an expensive new Sleeping Beauty, that is so faithful to the traditional version?