11 April 2012
By Nina King
I jumped at the chance of a ballet review as this was no ordinary ballet - it was The English National Ballet first production for children, a joint venture between The English National Ballet and The English National Ballet School.
Having spent many years fantasising about becoming a ballerina, what better way of passing the day could there be? With young Haydn in hand we made our way to Sadlers Wells to see ‘My First Sleeping Beauty’.
On arrival the venue was packed full to the rafters with mothers and their daughters. There were a handful of dads and a few sons, but this was predominantly a female affair, with most of the girls dressed as little ballerinas, which caused young Haydn’s eye to wander on numerous occasions.
We settled down to the morning matinee and were taken on a storytelling journey with a narrator guiding us through the production. The classic fairytale of good triumphing over evil unfolded before our eyes, with a happy ever after ending for our beautiful princess Aurora. The ballet dancers put on a fantastic performance, with arabesques; pliés and pas de deux, the whole troupe busting moves worthy of any highbrow performance for adults. The costumes and sets were very lavish and no expense had been spared just because the production was aimed at children.
Although My First Sleeping Beauty is aimed at those aged three and above, there were moments that did not work so well for the younger cohorts in the audience, due to the loud music, puffs of smoke and the increased volume and changing tone of the narrator, although these aspects were necessary to the story and to emphasise the eminent arrival and departure of the evil fairy Carabosse. The length of the performance could also be a little challenging for some younger children, as the production lasted for an hour and fifty minutes, with a twenty-minute interval.
During the performance I noticed Haydn attempting to emulate some of the dancers’ arm movements, with great rigour. Though with no real experience or understanding of ballet, he was able to articulate his enjoyment of the production. This was also reiterated in the conversations and discussions that could be heard from admiring little voices as we queued to leave the theatre.
The English National Ballet is on to something good, providing children with the opportunity to access ballet at its best, without compromising any of its integrity. The company is expanding young minds and hopefully providing a gateway into the world of ballet.
New Wimbledon Theatre: 5 May 11am, 2pm, 5pm; 6 May 11am, 3pm
The Hawth, Crawley: 11 May 5pm; 12 May 11am, 2pm, 5pm
The Churchill, Bromley: 19 May 11an, 2pm, 5pm; 20 May 11am, 3pm
For booking information visit www.ballet.org.uk
By phone: 0844 412 4300
By email: email@example.com
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