Dreamer, wordsmith, mum of two - I enjoy the outdoors, good food and good company. Subscribe to my articles to follow what I've been up to, and like those articles you want to see more of so I can tailor what I write to my audience.
The Australian Ballet for budding little ballerinas
Storytime ballet - photo of fairies from the Australian Ballet facebook page, photo by Jeff Busby
Part ballet, part pantomime - this children's version of the Australian Ballet's Sleeping Beauty is a terrific introduction to proper ballet for your little ballerina. Aimed at ages 3 and above, my children (aged 3 and 5) and I loved this production.
Featuring a pared-down cast in decadent costumes that will satisfy even the most glitter-crazed baby ballerinas, and a simple but lush set design, at approximately fifty minutes in length, this show is perfectly pitched for kiddies.
The performance is narrated by the head of the Royal Household, who does a great job of setting the scene, explaining each section of dancing, and just generally keeping the little ones engaged and entertained.
Head of Household (narrator). Photo from the Australian Ballet Facebook page, photo by Jeff Busby
Unlike any other ballet performance I've ever seen, audience participation is encouraged. I was a bit surprised when the lights dimmed at the start of the show and I realised that a good number of children in the audience were holding flashing magic wands and other glow sticks. My first thought was, what an idiotic thing to sell to kids prior to a ballet performance - didn't they realise it would completely disrupt the performance? As the show went on, I realised that the wands were actual stage props so that the kids could help cast magic spells to make us travel forwards in time from Aurora's christening party, to her sixteenth birthday, and other similar scene changes.
They weave in traditional panto standards such as:
Head of Household: "You will tell me if you see Carabosse, won't you?" Kids: "She's behind you!"
Head of Household: "She's behind me? I don't see her!"
The kids loved yelling back to the stage - again, something I'd never thought to see in a ballet performance.
The script even had a couple of Star Wars references, which went down well with the parents.
Why this show particularly rocks
Aurora with her parents, photo from the Australian Ballet Facebook page, photo by Jeff Busby
When I was growing up, I was your typical pink-wearing, tutu-flouncing girly girl, and my mother, patient long-suffering woman that she is, treated me once a year to tickets to the ballet. I think I had seen Swan Lake, the Nutcracker and Giselle by the time I was twelve (yes, spoilt brat alert, right here). However, I eventually had to tactfully tell her that as much as I loved ballet, these productions were so long, these tickets were wasted on me (in hindsight, most definitely). i.e. "Mum, these ballet shows are so BORING!"
I resigned myself to never subjecting my kiddies to such an experience until I was sure they were old enough to stay awake till the end of it, as well as at a time when they could appreciate the expense of my hard-earned dollars. Which is a shame really, because my girls love ballet, and it would be great to expose them to proper ballet in a non-stressful, relaxed kind of way when they were young, rather than waiting till they were fully grown and consequently way too tall and big-boned (given their genes) to possibly dream of being ballerinas.
Then I saw this production advertised, and realised it was exactly the kind of thing that I had been looking for without knowing. And it was to be performed by members of the Australian Ballet (i.e. proper ballet rather than ballet performed by a kiddy entertainer). Hell, I might even enjoy it.
The Prince, photo from the Australian Ballet Facebook page, photo by Jeff Busby
And I did. In fact, I would go as far as saying, this version of Sleeping Beauty has ruined me forever for full-length ballet productions. What I would have given for a real-time narrator to interpret what was happening on stage when my Mum took me to Covent Garden all those years ago! I'm so glad I made the effort to attend this (in my particular circumstances, it was a bit of an effort).
To explain, I had just got out of hospital a week ago (long story) and it was looking a bit touch and go as to whether I would be fit enough to take the kids to see the ballet as originally planned. So whilst my husband and in-laws argued amongst themselves about who should draw the short straw have the privilege of taking my kids to the ballet, I realised that, while I was restricted from bending down or lifting heavy items for the next month, sitting in a theatre was just as restful as sitting in bed, so I probably could go. Provided my 3 year old didn't demand to be picked up, or drop anything on the floor that needed picking up (ha ha ha, yeah right. As it turned out, she only dropped her tiara on the floor once, and I was able to use my monkey-like toes to pick it up. Did I mention that a large percentage of the kids in the audience were almost as decadently dressed as the cast?).
Brief review of the characters
Carabosse the evil fairy - photo from the Australian ballet Facebook Page, photo by Jeff Busby
Carabosse, the evil fairy who curses Sleeping Beauty so she sleeps for a hundred years was suitably scary looking in her dark costume, darker glares and her vivid pricking finger gestures, although she was much shorter than I would expect such an evil fairy to be (I guess evil can come in little packages).
I'm also a bit suspicious that Little Red Riding Hood at the end of the show looked a lot like Carabosse. Little Red Riding Hood? You say. But of course. Who else would get invited to Sleeping Beauty's wedding? Other than Cinderella, and her prince.
Aurora was beautiful - my three year old breathed a sigh of admiration as she pirouetted across the stage. Her leaps were pretty impressive too.
Aurora, photo from the Australian Ballet Facebook page, photo by Jeff Busby
The fairies - performed brief vignettes to signify the kind of blessings they were bestowing on Aurora at the christening. Again, totally delightful and of an appropriate length.
The prince - I thought he was a dish. Handsome as a ballet prince should be, and I loved his kick (yes, I said kick).
The King and Queen - suitably regal with wonderfully ornate floor length gowns, which my dress-up fanatics loved. Although my five-year old did feel the need to point out that baby Aurora was "just a toy doll".
Cinderella and her prince - royal guests at the wedding. My three-year old nearly knocked me unconscious she was bouncing about on my lap with so much delight at seeing Cinderella and her prince dance.
Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf - photo from the Australian Ballet Facebook page, photo by Jeff Busby
Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf - unexpected additions to a tale of Sleeping Beauty, but again, this went down very well with the kiddies. As expected in every well executed panto, my 3 year old hissed at the Wolf when he came on stage.
Where do I go to see this?
It's already been at the Sydney Opera House and the Arts Centre in Melbourne, but there's still a fair schedule left. Note that because of popularity, they've now added an encore performance at Chatswood in April 2016, which I can vouch as being an awesome venue that allows you a very intimate experience of this production.
7 - 9 January 2016- Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong
12 - 16 January 2016- Penrith Panthers
20 - 23 January 2016 - Canberra Theatre Centre
29 - 30 March 2016 - The Arts Centre, Gold Coast
1 - 2 April 2016 - Brisbane Powerhouse
5 April 2016 - The Events Centre, Caloundra
7 - 8 April 2016 - Logan Entertainment Centre
22 - 23 April 2016 - Chatswood Concourse, Sydney
Ticket prices vary according to venue, as an indication, our B-reserve tickets were about $40 each at Chatswood Concourse (no concessions). Country venues generally have significantly cheaper ticket prices than this.
Best kids show I've ever been to - and believe me, I've been to a lot - including the Wiggles, Baby Proms, Hi-Five, Playschool (see my other review), the Conductor and the Clown, the Tiger came to Tea, the Three Little Pigs...the list goes on. Okay, to be frank, my kids might say they preferred the Wiggles show, but that was no way near as intimate a show as this or as cultured, and in terms of parental enjoyment factor, while I appreciated the professionalism of the Wiggles, I actually personally, as an adult, loved being able to see ballet performed to such a high standard, while sitting alongside my kids who also enjoyed it too. I think this would be the only kids show I have been to which I can honestly say I think I enjoyed seeing more than my kids. And my kids loved it. If you have a baby ballerina, and you're close to one of the remaining performance venues, take your little ballerina to see this - I promise you will not be disappointed.