Artistic Director: David Nixon OBE
Choreographer: Daniel de Andrade
Music: Philip Feeney
Reviewer: Beverley Haigh
Although in terms of accessible forms of theatre, ballet is one of the best examples that transcends the generations and different ages, often the length of a two or three act traditional production can be off putting for the very young. Here Northern Ballet have addressed the issue and produced the perfect ballet for ages three and upwards.
Elves and the Shoemaker has been created specifically with this in mind as an introduction to ballet and is the latest in the company’s series of work for children, following the success of The Ugly Duckling and The Three Little Pigs. These 40-minute pieces offer the young audiences the opportunity to experience different forms of ballet live on stage, while telling a well-know fairy tale.
The story of Elves and the Shoemaker focuses on a couple of elderly shoemakers who have fallen on hard times and upon an encounter with two helpful little elves, their good luck and fortune is restored. The central theme and moral we are presented with, kindness is rewarded.
The ballet is performed by only six dancers but the quality we have come to expect from the internationally renowned Northern Ballet is not compromised in the slightest and the work is of no less importance simply because the audience is made up of children. The dancing from the elves is playful and fun – as reflected in the music from the fantastic (reduced for this production) Northern Ballet Sinfonia (an ensemble of four musicians in smaller venues and eleven when the space allows it). The movements of the other dancers are more exaggerated than in a traditional ballet to place emphasis on the story telling aspect and so the nuances are not lost on the younger audience.
The piece provides an introduction to formal ballet, some of which is en pointe, but also clog dancing and an element of tap when one of the characters buys a new pair of clogs from the shoemakers. The dancers also introduce the conventions of ballet to the audience, encouraging them to clap after the lovely pas de deux between the Prince and Princess. The inclusion of these characters also allows scope for a formal tutu and tiara that many will expect from a ballet performance.
Northern Ballet really have hit upon a winner with their concept of a children’s ballet. The entire production is audience appropriate: the dancing, the story telling element and intended jokes. The perfect ballet for this age group, the formula requires no adjusting for future productions.
Runs until: 23rd May 2015 then touring
Reviewed on: 23rd May 2015