As the doors swung shut behind me I was greeted by a completely different scene at The Peacock theatre. It was the opening night of My first ballet- Swan Lake. The place was heaving with a very young audience and their parents. This was refreshingly different from the usual weeknight evening shows. English National Ballet School and English National Ballet created this delightful children’s adaptation of Swan Lake as part of their “My first ballet” series
As our young audience excitedly settle in, the occasional “mummy when will it start” Or, “I can’t wait to see the swans flying across” could be heard above the murmur. Faces are beaming with anticipation and expectation.
As the narrator steps on stage and greets everyone in, you could see the alert little ones craning their necks above the sea of heads ahead to get a better view. The total focus and concentration of such a young audience goes to show the mesmerising hold such classic stories can have even in the era of digital addiction. You could almost hear deep breaths taken in awe with the first appearance of Odette, Odile and Rothbart behind a mesh screen. The story starts from a flash back moment where Odette and Odile are best friends and Rothbart’s ( Odile’s brother) love for Odette is spurned.. This is a slightly different version to the story but a very catchy and accessible content for little minds. With all the drama where the wizard Rothbart casts a spell on Odette and transforms her into a swan princess the audience is totally taken in by poor Odette’s misfortune. Odette -the damsel turns into a beautiful white swan with her shimmering plummet, sequined and jewelled tiara and princess like beautiful appearance under a wash of silver light. This breath-taking first appearance of the white swan princess is that magical moment when you fall in love with this ballet as a first-time audience. This image stays within – nothing ever can beat that first love. In this production English National Ballet school has given its first timers a white swan Princess to cherish.
With progressing acts the performers serve up some beautiful Pas de deux, solos and perfect pirouettes. Antonio Castilla’s languid and elegant choreography builds on the originals of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. The dancers show promise, grace and dedication in their performance- The future English National Ballet company dancers and principals in the making. It’s a great platform for the young students to start their professional journeys. Their performance is testament to their beautiful nurturing engendering a deep love and admiration for the art they are learning.
The beautiful pastel shades of the costumes go on to make this a dreamlike journey for the audience …. You are transferred to the grand imagination of the master, yet inspired by the new.
Everything about the band of white swans is beautiful. Their costumes, postures and choreography with the underlying melancholy that moves you even more when cruel Rothbart sets in with his sweeping owl-like wings. The cruelty and villainy deepen when he sets up Prince Siegfried with Odile disguised as Odette behind a mask. Just when Odette is to lose her loving Prince Siegfried, her chance to break the spell and be free, Odile’s love for her friend averts her cruel fate. True love and friendship win and the house cracks with roaring applause.
….You snap out and get back to reality.
This is a Swan Lake for impressionable young minds and it sure leaves an enduring impression. Nothing like the power of live ballet and Tchaikovsky’s immortal music to trigger the curiosity and possible lifelong love for classics.
The dreams and aspirations of a young and talented bunch of upcoming artists can be felt through this hour long performance of The English National Ballet School. They sure inspired the next generations of fine ballerinas.
Reviewed by Protima Chatterjee
The Peacock, London 29 March – 07 April 2018 www.ballet.org.uk/myfirstballet
Churchill Theatre, Bromley 14 & 15 April 2018 www.ballet.org.uk/myfirstballet
New Theatre, Oxford 21 & 22 April 2018 www.ballet.org.uk/myfirstballet
Manchester Opera House 28 & 29 April 2018 www.ballet.org.uk/myfirstballet
The Grand Theatre, Blackpool 05 & 06 May 2018 www.ballet.org.uk/myfirstballet
New Victoria Theatre, Woking 12 & 13 May 2018 www.ballet.org.uk/myfirstballet
Princess Theatre, Torquay 19 & 20 May 2018 www.ballet.org.uk/myfirstballet