The real-life plot involves a dashing American superstar\'s historic encounter with a legendary Soviet figure; not to mention a young Russian couple lured away by an alleged dark force. The turbulent build-up to the new production of Tchaikovsky\'s ballet \"Sleeping Beauty\" at Moscow\'s Bolshoi Theatre has often read like the most fantastical fairytale. The production is the first full-length ballet performance at the Bolshoi since it reopened late October after a six-year closure for urgent renovations to literally save it from collapsing to the ground. The tale of a princess cursed by evil fairy, put into a long slumber and then awoken by handsome prince has been revived by the man who dominated the Bolshoi Ballet for decades in its Soviet heyday -- choreographer Yury Grigorovich. As the prince, it features star US dancer David Hallberg, who built his career with New York\'s American Ballet Theatre and stunned the ballet world this year by becoming the first ever American to join the Bolshoi company. His bold decision to join the Bolshoi was a historic reversal of the USSR-to-West defections that marked ballet in the Cold War period. In 1961, Rudolf Nureyev threw himself into the arms of Paris police at Le Bourget airport, while Natalia Makarova defected to the West in 1970 and Mikhail Baryshnikov requested asylum while on tour in Canada in 1974. Any collaboration between an American dancer and Grigorovich -- a hero of the USSR who epitomized Soviet ballet -- would have been unthinkable in those years. At the premiere of \"Sleeping Beauty\", Hallberg electrified the audience from his first entry, bounding across the stage with fearless jumps -- his legs seemingly effortlessly extended to 180 degrees in midair. He appeared sublimely at ease with his partner as the Princess Aurora, Svetlana Zakharova, the Bolshoi\'s long-legged prima ballerina recently returned from maternity leave and dazzling with her trademark body extensions. \"Working with Grigorovich and Zakharova -- for me it\'s a milestone in my career,\" Hallberg recently told reporters at the theatre. \"I am very honoured to be at the Bolshoi theatre and I respect its traditions. I feel that when I dance, I bring a mixture of my style of dancing, but I am very open to learning the techniques of the Bolshoi Theatre.\" The blond dancer -- the first ever principal from a non-ex-Soviet state to join the Bolshoi -- said he was adapting to the challenges of living in a new country and grappling with an unfamiliar language. \"For me it was a huge sacrifice deciding to come to the Bolshoi Theatre, I was very happy in my life in New York but it was an offer that I could not turn down. \"I am learning day by day -- I am learning Russian, a new technique of the Bolshoi Theatre and I\'m learning how to grocery shop in Russia. It\'s a completely different life for me.\" Russia\'s ballet critics applaud his marriage of American style with respect for Russian tradition in a ballet whose choreography goes back to the original version made by Marius Petipa in 1890 for the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg. \"Zakharova and Hallberg merge Petipa\'s era with modernity,\" said daily newspaper Vedomosti. Hallberg\'s performance was a welcome boost for the Bolshoi, still reeling from the news that its most celebrated young duo -- the real-life couple of Natalya Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev -- were deserting it for the less well-regarded Mikhailovsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg. An extraordinary war of words followed with the Bolshoi sniping that the Mikhailovsky\'s businessman boss Vladimir Kekhman lured the two with promises of big money and then accusing him of blackmailing the Bolshoi. While praise for the dancing in \"Sleeping Beauty\" has been universal, the same cannot be said for the production itself, showing the new Bolshoi still has some work to do. The monumental decor created by an Italian team led by designer Ezio Frigerio is colourful to the point of kitsch while the jewel-encrusted costumes threaten to overshadow the performances. The Bolshoi ballet\'s director has admitted the dancers are still getting to know the gigantic stage, most having spent their careers dancing in the smaller replacement theatre during the Bolshoi\'s closure. \"The fabled capacities of the reconstructed stage about which so much was written before the opening were not evident at all in this fairy tale,\" the Kommersant daily said. Noting that the premiere was attended by President Dmitry Medvedev, his wife Svetlana and Kazakhstan\'s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the newspaper\'s critic noted acidly: \"This ritualistic, parade-like 170-minute Sleeping Beauty could be a very effective diplomatic weapon if our high-ranking guests need suddenly to be sent to sleep in the interests of our state.\"