The Canberra Theatre Centre foyer was abuzz with tiny ballerinas and princesses, and more than a few young princes, for the Canberra premiere of the Australian Ballet’s latest initiative, Storytime Ballet.
Early arrivals soon discovered the dress-up room where they try on some of the gorgeous costumes and big girls ballet shoes thoughtfully provided by the ballet company, while mums, grannies and grandads purchased tiaras, crowns and swords as essential souvenirs before hurrying into the theatre.
This production of The Sleeping Beauty has been designed as in introduction to ballet for children as young as three years old. With this target audience in mind, David McAllister, in collaboration with Nicolette Fraillon, has skilfully reduced the original three-act ballet into a performance lasting a nicely judged fifty minutes.
Meticulously costumed in Hugh Coleman’s gorgeous storybook costumes, and performing on part of the setting he originally created for Maina Gielgud’s 1984 production of The Sleeping Beauty, ten young company dancers perform truncated excerpts of Petipa’s original choreography to the accompaniment of Tchaikovsky’s glorious music.
To keep the young audience informed as to exactly what is going on, Sean McGrath, as the Prince’s private secretary, Catalabutte, stylishly delivers a witty and informative narration.
Totally engaged in the story, the young audience need little encouragement to help him make magic to wake up the palace guests from their 100 year doze or to scream warnings to him when the wicked fairy, Carabosse, slinks with intent in the background.
The charm of this enchanting production is that it retains all the essential elements of the original, captures much of the magic, and is perfectly pitched at its target audience, who left no doubt as to how much they enjoyed it, as they excitedly spilled out into the foyer afterwards.
As such it works equally well as an inspirational experience for budding young dancers and as a charming introduction for the uninitiated to the often mysterious world of classical ballet. If you haven’t a young prince or princess of your own, beg, borrow or steal a couple from your neighbour and give yourself a treat.
Storytime Ballet – The Sleeping Beauty
Canberra Theatre Centre, London Circuit, Canberra
Season: 20 – 23 January 2016
For more information, visit: www.australianballet.com.au for details.
Image: The Sleeping Beauty – photo by Jeff Busby
Review: Bill Stephens