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Subject: "London Children's Ballet in "Ballet Shoes"" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #1680
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Helen

20-05-01, 11:10 AM (GMT)
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"London Children's Ballet in "Ballet Shoes""
 
   I went to the Saturday afternoon performance of Cathy Marston's Ballet Shoes with the London Children's Ballet at the Peacock Theatre, and it was one of the most enjoyable afternoons I have ever spent in the theatre. I was attracted to it because of the subject, Noel Streatfeild's book being one of my great favourites; I was curious to see how it could be made into a ballet.

Obviously, a few adaptations and alterations to the story had to be made, but, that said, it was very successful - excellent and varied choreography which made every child a real character, marvellous original music by Raymond Warren (how many professional companies have specially composed scores?), costumes and lighting a delight. I have to mention the final scene, with Petrova and Gum taking off in an aeroplane among the clouds - a very effective piece of theatre. The presentation was completely professional. I am not going to name any of the children individually, because the cast was large and I might offend someone (if they read this) by omitting them. Suffice it to say that the standard, both of dancing and acting, was high. In the first-rate programme it was pointed out that one of the qualities looked for in the dancers was "star quality", and there was certainly plenty of that.

If anyone involved is reading this, I would like to say that it was a joy to watch my favourite children's book come to life so beautifully. The amount of work that went into this production is hard to imagine. I had never been to an LCB production before, but I shall certainly try to go again.

There is one more performance, today (Sunday) at 2.30. It is officially sold out, as were all the performances, but there could be returns.


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: London Children's Ballet in "Ballet Shoes" Bruce Madmin 20-05-01 1
     RE: London Children's Ballet in "Ballet Shoes" Helen 21-05-01 2
  RE: London Children's Ballet in "Ballet Shoes" nabena henry 10-12-01 3

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Bruce Madmin

20-05-01, 11:52 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: London Children's Ballet in "Ballet Shoes""
In response to message #0
 
   Thank you! Here are some of my thoughts....

Company: The London Children's Ballet
What: Ballet Shoes
Where: London, Peacock Theatre
When: May 2001

In short...
A classic girlies’ book brought to life in a very professional show. Cathy Marston's first full-length evening piece and rather superb I thought. Bravos all round.


Background
I've seen a number of children’s shows over the years but never one by The London Children's Ballet who have been going since 1994 and commission a new full-length story ballet (and score) each year. The company makes much of catering for a wide cross-section of the community, but the audience of mums and kids looked incredibly posh to me. You wouldn't believe the number of Range Rovers and other expensive people carriers outside the entrance! However the affluent do know how to pull things together and the Gala Committee (9 members) and Ticket Committee (53 number - can you imagine chairing it!) put on shows that sell out every year - this year it was six full houses at the Peacock: one hell of an achievement.


Plot
While the boys read Biggles in the 30's, 40's and 50's the girls read Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield. Apparently it caused a Harry Potter- like stir when first published in 1936 and it's very hard to imagine the story being invented today. Suffice it to say that Great Uncle Matthew (GUM) travels the world and over a 4 year period brings or sends 3 baby girls to his niece’s home. Social services appear not to be involved in any of the transactions...

The girls, naturally all rather different, go through various trials and tribulations, mostly of a dance and stage related nature before each finding their feet: one off to Hollywood, one to be a ballerina and the middle one - with a passion for mechanics and cars - is invited to go off with GUM for an "exciting future". There is a lovely innocence about it all: thank goodness that stories like this are not lost through political correctness.

The scenario, over 12 scenes, in 2 acts, is by Lucille Briance (the director of the company) and the music by Raymond Warren and incorporating some bits from Mendelssohn’s The Midsummer Night’s Dream. It all worked well.


Sets and Costumes
The set (Eva Oppenlander) for the most part is fixed and is adapted with lighting, a few nice drop-downs or some wheel-on additions. At first it looked a little sparse but overall I warmed to it and the way it adapted to reflect different locations. The costumes, by Kate Ford, were really very special I thought, captured the 30's feel and were very well made too - more professional even than those in which some UK companies appeared in the early 90's.


Choreography
Cathy Marston did a nice job I thought - the stage was abuzz. The story is graphic and was told boldly but without getting incredibly twee. Neither did it pander to the kids and it pushed them in grown-up ways, while being well rehearsed. It's nice to see that the expressive and dramatic movement that Marston creates for her more personal works transports so well and she brought life to some rather strange characters and weird plot. Just loved the Midsummer Night’s Dream choreography which ended in a terrific Sleeping Beauty type tableau! It will be nice to see her tackle a full-blown dramatic work for an older company of dancers now.


Dancers
A mix of ages (9-14) and talents, but for the most part with charisma, stage and dance presence. Over 120 appeared in all and I congratulate them all.


Does it work?
Yep - I'd go again to one of their performances. Great that they create new work and give another outlet for the creative talents and development of so many.


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Helen

21-05-01, 09:51 AM (GMT)
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2. "RE: London Children's Ballet in "Ballet Shoes""
In response to message #1
 
   Interesting summary, Bruce.

It's true that the plot of Ballet Shoes is in some ways "weird" - that is, it has some elements of a fairy tale, with a high level of coincidence and luck - but it is more than just a "girlie novel", and it is still widely read. It has never been out of print. It has significance because it was the first English children's novel about girls aiming at careers, and high-powered ones at that. Posy (ballet) and Pauline (acting) are perhaps more predictable than Petrova, with her interest in and talent for maths, engineering and flying. That was pretty sensational stuff in 1936! It gave "permission" for girls to pursue unlikely dreams. In later works by Noel Streatfeild it is mentioned that Petrova became a pilot. The book has its own entry in the Oxford Companion to Children's Literature.


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nabena henry

10-12-01, 08:37 AM (GMT)
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3. "RE: London Children's Ballet in "Ballet Shoes""
In response to message #0
 
   DEAR SIR,

WITH RESPECT I HEREBY APPLY TO BE AN AGENT IN MY
COUNTRY NIGERIA. I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE
PRODUCTS YOU HAVE AND IF POSSIBLE MATERIALS SO AS TO
EXPLORE WAYS OF INTRODUCING YOUR COMPANY AND ITS
PRODUCTS INTO THE NIGERIAN MARKET.

BEST REGARDS

HENRY EMOTOGHA NABENA


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