Dance / “Energeia”. Conceived and directed by Alison Plevey for Australian Dance Party. At Mount Majura Solar Farm November 16-18. Reviewed by Bill Stephens
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 could 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.
Too soon, the bells were ringing and it was time to hurry into the theatre and settle down for the show.
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.
The cast of ten young dancers from the company are costumed in the Hugh Coleman’s gorgeous storybook costumes, and perform on part of his setting which was originally created for Maina Gielgud’s 1984 production of “The Sleeping Beauty”. The Prince’s secretary, Catalabutte, (Sean McGrath) engages directly with the young audience. His narration is witty and informative, keeping his young audience informed about exactly what is happening as the dancers perform sections of the original Petipa choreography to Tchaikovsky’s glorious music. In response his audience enthusiastically help him make magic to wake up the palace guests from their 100 year sleep, and 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, or curious, 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.
[Photo by Jeff Busby]