Choreography: Antonio Castilla after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Reviewer: Richard Hall
Since 2012, the English National Ballet School and English National Ballet have toured versions of some of the most famous ballets in the repertoire that have been specially adapted for young audiences. The My First Ballet series places the emphasis firmly on fun and accessibility and this utterly charming and delightful production is no exception.
This bite-size Swan Lake is introduced and narrated by actress Louise Calf. With her bubbly nature and best friend/elder sister persona she quickly establishes a rapport with the young audience, which is predominantly made up of tiny tots, toddlers, their families and carers.
Dramaturg Lou Cope has cleverly condensed the essential narrative elements of Swan Lake into an engaging and exquisite performance that with an extended interval lasts a mere ninety minutes. Guided by Calf who introduces each scene and takes great care to underline the major themes that are expressed through the choreography the audience sit absorbed and riveted throughout. Some of the more difficult aspects of the story involving the villainous Wizard, Rothbart are explained superbly by Calf whose energy and delivery are excellent.
At the beginning, Calf promises a story about, “magic, friendship and love,” and the extremely talented and hard working company of corps de ballet and principal dancers deliver this with exuberance, vigour and great style. Victor Gonzalez Perez as Prince Siegfried and Imogen Ginty from the UK as Odette, dazzle and amaze the young audience with their assured and confident display of pirouettes, jumps and grand jetes. Their duets are a delight and the range of emotions that they express through the beauty of their dance accompanied with individual flourishes are keenly felt by the young audience. As with some of the other dancers in the company, notably the Japanese dancer, Kirica Takakashi as Odile, they are clearly names to watch out for and one expects it will not be too long before they dance these roles again with some of the World’s leading Ballet companies.
Although this is a reduced version of Swan Lake, production values are not compromised. Impressive sets and costumes by Peter Farmer, beautifully frame the stage and depict various settings including Prince Siegfried’s court and the enchanted, magical swan lake. Overall this is a wonderful introduction to ballet and theatre for young children and both English National Ballet and the English National Ballet School are to be congratulated for setting up this joint venture and long may it continue.
Although clearly aimed at young children, my eleven-year-old daughter loved it as much as I did and I suspect that keen ballet connoisseurs would as well. At the end of the performance, Calf declares that we have seen “light drive away darkness,” we have also seen the dawn of a new generation of ballet dancers a number of which will no doubt in the future go on to become superstars. Hopefully, some of the young children watching this performance will have been inspired to follow in their very capable and gifted footsteps.
This magical and hugely enjoyable version of Swan Lake is highly recommended for dance lovers of all ages.
Touring until Sunday 20 May | Image: Contributed