As a long-time fan of the ballet Swan Lake, I eagerly anticipated sharing it with my children (aged five and nine), at the English National Ballet’s My First Ballet series.  These shortened versions of traditional ballets aim to introduce young audiences (3 years plus) to classical ballet in a fun and accessible way. For us, it mostly succeeded.

The audience at the 5pm performance was – not unexpectedly – 95% mums and little girls, so my five-year-old son’s game of spotting dads and boys was rather short-lived! There was an audible buzz of excitement throughout the auditorium, which the young ones minimised as the lights dimmed and their necks craned forward in anticipation. “Hello!” The greeting came from our jolly and personable narrator for the afternoon, who stood centre stage in modern dress and gym boots.  In wide-eyed wonder and an animated voice, she led us through a story of friendship and loyalty, love and forgiveness.  Without being intrusive or obstructing the dancing, she helped transfix the young audience to the stage action.  Top marks! (more…)

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Following previous success with Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty, English National Ballet‘s My First Ballet: Swan Lake comes to Oxford’s New Theatre this weekend, a new version of one of the most famous ballets of all time, adapted for children aged three upwards.

The magician Rothbart has turned the princess Odette into a swan; only at night can she return to human form. Will Prince Siegfried be able to save her or will he fall for Rothbart’s sorcery? Featuring choreography by Antonio Castilla, English National Ballet’s Ballet Master and Repetiteur, this new version follows the familiar story from a different point of view.  With a narrator to help the young audience follow the story, and a shortened version of Tchaikovsky’s wonderful music, this is the perfect introduction to the magic of ballet, promising a fantastic family day out.

This unique collaboration between English National Ballet and English National Ballet School is performed by students of English National Ballet School.  Since its creation in 2012, over 250,000 people have enjoyed our My First Ballet series.

★★★★
‘A pocket-sized delight’
The Times

★★★★
‘It is a clever, instructive and entertaining device’
Daily Express on My First Ballet: Sleeping Beauty

Performances:  Saturday 21st April at 11am, 2pm, 5pm and Sunday 22nd April at 11am and 3pm

Venue:  The New Theatre Oxford, George Street, Oxford OX1 2AG

Tickets:  £13.40-£29.40 plus £4 transaction fee.

Book online here, or call the ATG booking line on 0844 871 7615

Saturday afternoon at the New Theatre (5.00pm performance) was an extremely happy occasion, with an auditorium full of little girls (and one or two boys) mostly accompanied by their mothers. ENB’s cut-down version of The Sleeping Beauty is pitched somewhere between a pantomime and a ballet, the story narrated by an actress playing the adult Aurora as she watches the rest of the cast dance, mime and act out the fairy tale. An advantage of this approach is that it restores to prominence the nineteenth-century mime scenes.

The cast consisted of very young dancers from the English National Ballet School, and it is frustrating that although the programme gave their names with photographs, there was no cast list included. One of the great pleasures of the afternoon was to see so much energy and emerging talent, but I am unable to name individual dancers with any certainty. (more…)

My First Ballet: Sleeping Beauty is an enchanting version of the fairy tale ballet created especially for children aged three upwards.

As a baby, Princess Aurora is cursed by the evil Carabosse: on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Her godmother the Lilac Fairy alters the spell so Aurora will not die but will sleep for 100 years, only to be awoken by true love’s kiss.  From Aurora’s christening in the grand hall of the palace, to her jubilant wedding celebrations, the popular fairy tale comes alive on stage.

Since its creation in 2012, over 150,000 people have enjoyed our My First Ballet series, a collaboration between English National Ballet and English National Ballet School that offers an introduction to the beauty of ballet, and a fantastic family day out.  With a narrator to help the young audience follow the story, and a shortened version of Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous music, My First Ballet: Sleeping Beauty is created by English National Ballet’s Associate Artist George Williamson and performed by second year students from English National Ballet School.

**** ‘A pocked-sized delight’
Times on My First Ballet: Swan Lake

Performances:  Saturday 30th April 11.00am, 2.00pm and 5.00pm, Sunday 1st May 11.00am and 3.00pm

Venue: The New Theatre, George Street, Oxford OX1 2AG

Tickets:  £12.90 – £28.90 plus £4 transaction fee

Book tickets here

Running time:  1 hour 30 mins

Read Susie Crow’s review of My First Cinderella here

On Sunday 5th May I joined a long queue outside Oxford’s New Theatre; lots of little girls, many in pastel princess dresses and net petticoats, with their mothers.  Inside the auditorium much excitement finding seats, fidgeting to get comfy, sweets and fruit drinks, plastic tiara and fluffy glow wand merchandise.  For this was one of a weekend clutch of performances of My First Cinderella, English National Ballet’s latest initiative to catch a new young and family audience.

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Presented by English National Ballet and English National Ballet School, My First Cinderella tells everyone’s favourite rags-to-riches story in a beautifully adapted version for young audiences. Cinderella is tormented by her spiteful stepsisters and longs to attend the Prince’s glamorous ball. Abandoned to an evening of drudgery, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother appears and transforms her into a glittering Princess who shall go to the ball.

The My First… series brings young audiences their first taste of ballet through the magic of fairytales, captivating music and beautiful dance. Prokofiev’s ravishing score is accompanied by narration to ensure everyone enjoys this classic fairy tale, and ENB2 features graduating dancers of outstanding potential from English National Ballet School in performances produced by English National Ballet. (more…)