To help introduce children – and their parents – to the beautiful art form that is ballet, The English National Ballet launched My First Ballet a few of years ago with Sleeping Beauty. They followed that up with Cinderella and Coppélia. By using fairy tales, the audience is familiar with the stories, which helps them to understand the action. The ballets are danced by second year students of the English National Ballet School in performances produced by English National Ballet.
This year, English National Ballet and English National Ballet School present arguably the most famous ballet, Swan Lake. Based on Russian folk tales, Swan Lake tells the story of Odette, a princess turned in to a swan by an evil sorcerer. It was first performed in 1877, when it received universal criticism for the dancers, storyline, sets, decorations, orchestra, score and more. Swan Lake has a long and complicated performance history and it underwent several changes but it continued to run and grew in popularity. Now, major companies around the world sell out tickets every year when they include it in their new seasons. It is one of the world’s best loved ballets, with its stunning and recognisable Tchaikovsky score and moving dances.
In the My First Ballet series, the score is accompanied by a narrator, who begins with a lesson in ballet miming and continues to help translate what is happening throughout. She or he also encourages the children to participate. At the My First Ballet presentations, children are not expected to sit quietly. They are encouraged to get involved and noisily munch on bags of sweets during the shows. If they get up from their seats for a little stretch, no one is going to mind. What is amazing is to watch their enthralled faces during the performance. The majority of kids are swept away by the emotions of the ballet. It’s a pretty amazing thing to watch.
My First Ballet: Swan Lake debuts 2 April 2015 in London. This is followed by a mini tour to Poole, Woking, Manchester, Brisol and Leicester. Tickets are very reasonable and a fraction of the cost of the premiere ballet companies. Buy your tickets here.
Choreography: George Williamson after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Concept and Direction: George Williamson
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Musical Arrangement: Gavin Sutherland
Original Design: Peter Farmer
New Design: Louie Whitemore