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

Vibrant, colourful and humorous, English National Ballet’s Coppélia is a delightful entertainment. On Tuesday evening Tamara Rojo was a witty and astute Swanilda who was well aware that her fiancé Franz (Yonah Acosta) could not resist chatting up a new girl in town. Michael Coleman’s Dr Coppélius was a doddery and at times almost endearing, old man; a quack scientist whose experiments were fantastic rather than sinister. If he lived today, he would probably be manufacturing phoney diet pills for the naïve and gullible. (more…)

English National Ballet return to the New Theatre Oxford this Autumn with Coppélia, one of the great nineteenth century ballets, here in Ronald Hynd’s production with choreography after Marius Petipa, with colourful designs by Desmond Heeley, and set to Delibes’s irresistibly melodic score performed by English National Ballet’s full orchestra.

Dr Coppélius, the toymaker, has created the lifelike Coppélia doll and wishes for nothing more than to bring her to life. He thinks his dream has finally come true, but he has merely been caught up in Franz and Swanhilda’s lovers’ tiff.  Love triumphs over all in this comedy of mistaken identity and the finale is a breathtaking celebration of the lovers’ marriage.  Coppélia is an enchanting, effervescent family ballet, perfect for young and old alike. (more…)

Thrilling, innovative and original, the programme Lest We Forget marks another exciting advance for English National Ballet under Tamara Rojo’s leadership. Following last autumn’s production of Le Corsaire, she has now showcased the company further with an evening that included three new works, each by a different choreographer.  Marking the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, Liam Scarlett, Russell Maliphant and Akram Khan’s contrasting approaches range from the almost literal and ballet-based (Scarlett) through the largely abstract and contemporary (Maliphant) to the intensely personal and culturally eclectic (Khan). (more…)