Madeleine Keane joined us during our recent performances of Coppélia in Salford, and wrote up her experiences behind-the-scenes for

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A moribund blonde sits in her pale blue frock, head listing to one side, a stiff, painted mannequin. Then the music of Leo Delibes and the machinations of Doctor Coppelius ignite life in this beautiful doll and so the magic that is the ballet of Coppélia begins.

Happily for devotees of this dance form, Coppélia is coming to Dublin next month. It will be performed by the renowned Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Grand Canal Theatre. One of the world’s leading ballet companies, it has its roots in Ireland as it originated from the Sadler’s Wells Ballet which was founded by Irish-born dancer Dame Ninette de Valois.

Today this international company is based at the Birmingham Hippodrome and tours extensively. Recently, the company completed a three-week tour of Japan; David Bintley is artistic director of both Birmingham and the National Ballet of Japan. When we meet, he is playing Sudoku. “It’s a feast or a famine,” he laughs, but one suspects that it’s mostly a feast for this Yorkshire-born dancer and choreographer who was stage-struck at the age of four. He worked under the great Sir Peter Wright, Birmingham’s Director Laureate who choreographed this production of Coppélia. Bintley is passionate about his country’s fine tradition, believing that British ballet “leads the world in narrative dance and production values”.

Watching the matinee later at Manchester’s impressive Lowry Centre, it’s hard to disagree with him. This Coppélia is a joy — funny, moving, exquisitely executed and a visual feast. We have already been backstage where Johnny Westall-Eyre, head of lighting has explained that though his job is technical , “lighting is all about creative input and making a set become a show”. And he’s just one of the team we meet who conspire to create a sumptuous, enchanting performance.

Spending a day with this company is a delight. The cliche of one big happy family is true — they really are a close, friendly hard-working team committed to their art. And the ballet dancers are about as far removed from the neurotic narcissists portrayed in Black Swan as you can imagine.

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