Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is possibly one of the most famous ballets and the My First Ballet version does an admirable job of adapting it just enough to keep the kiddos enthralled whilst giving the feeling of having seen the real thing. I have fond memories of visiting the ballet as a child but also recall the experience being somewhat of an endurance test. Ballets are not only typically very long but also require perhaps a little more attention than a child might be willing/able to give - dance is arguably a very effective form of communication, but when you’re six years old a lot can be lost in translation. The My First Ballet series, a collaboration between the English National Ballet and English National Ballet School, tackles all these issues: they condense the plot, provide a narrator and pack in as much of the good stuff as possible – there’s no skimping when it comes to luxurious sets or sumptuous costumes, for example, and the story remains one brimming with magic, deception, friendship and love.
Performed by a cast from the English National Ballet School the dancers are evidently younger than your regular pros but they are, to my amateur eye, precise and mesmerising. Countless times I heard myself saying, 'She moves like an ACTUAL SWAN!' (And I did so out loud, because you can talk at full volume during a children’s show and nobody notices amidst the general sweet rummaging and cries of 'WHAT IS SHE DOING, MUMMY?') And, confession time, although I am rapidly approaching 40, I loved, LOVED having someone to talk me through the story – I didn’t have to think, and my daughter (age four, short attention span, thinks going to the theatre is just a really elaborate means to eat ice cream) could grasp what was going on. I also really liked how the narrator was separated out in modern-day casual dress – the perfect bridge between the dancers and audience.
I don’t know how appealing this show would be for young ones who don’t already have some kind of interest in ballet and although I wish it weren’t the case, the audience comprised mostly mothers and their little ladies. This is a shame because the male performers were tremendous – it’s not often you get to see equal displays of astounding grace and supreme strength as a young man.
This is a wonderful opportunity for you and your family to enjoy all the pluses of the ballet without any of the potential difficulties that come when you’re a party of varying ages, interests and attention spans.