If you thought kissing a Frog Prince was strange, you’ve clearly never heard the plot of The Prince of the Pagodas. In 1989, Sir Kenneth MacMillan restaged John Cranko’s elaborate 1957 ballet, created to a commissioned score by Benjamin Britten. In this clip from a 1990 performance, The Royal Ballet’s Darcey Bussell dances the role of Princess Rose, whose compassion and love for a salamander—yes, a salamander—saves her father’s kingdom.
Strange though the plot may be, Bussell and Royal Ballet principal Jonathan Cope dance with sincere clarity. Blindfolded, she learns to trust the Salamander Prince while he’s in human form, and Bussell is as expressive and candid with covered eyes as she would be otherwise. She aptly portrays hesitation and curiosity while she and Cope masterfully handle MacMillan’s complex partnering. The momentum builds, and his gentleness with her growing trust climax in a passionate kiss. MacMillan created The Prince of the Pagodas on then 19-year-old Bussell. More magical than a salamander-turned-human was the emergence of this stunning ballerina. After the premiere, Bussell was promoted to the rank of principal at just 20 years old. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!