You're never too young for the ballet, as Storytime Ballet proves.
The Australian Ballet’s offering for their smallest audiences (children 2–8 are the target market) shortens traditional ballets to a tidy 50 minutes without skimping on quality of set design or performers.
This year’s production is the classic princess story, Cinderella. To Serge Prokofiev’s familiar score and with choreography by ex-AB artistic director David McAllister, it’s a perfect happily-ever-after choice for the crowd.
The little budding ballerinas, dressed to the nines in their tutu-finest and waving rainbow light-up wands (for sale in the foyer) are suitably entertained.
To keep the audience engaged, narrator Sean McGrath guides the beginning, middle and end of the story with snippets of text and revs up the crowd to help him find misplaced items and direct him to the ball. There’s lots of audience wand-waving and screeches of glee. No one expects silence at this performance!
Full-length ballets condensed into 50-minute morsels mean that even those as young as three, as well as tired parents can enjoy an outing to the ballet without falling asleep or getting antsy.
The duration hits a sweet spot, with all the basic action abridged into the one act with enough narration to outline the basic storyline.
The set (design by Ishan Vivekanantham) and lighting (by Jon Buswell) are clean and crisp, with sheer white curtains that make for easy changes to transition from Cinderella’s house to the ball and back. Simple props – table, fireplace, chandelier – distinguish locale.
Besides entertaining littlies, Storytime Ballet provides work and development opportunities to dancers. The young cast are all enthusiastic and proficient. Jeremy Hargreaves as the Prince has precise lines and jumps while Nicole Moshidis as Cinderella finds the sadness and jubilation in her role.
Chantelle van der Hoek and Sophie Wormald play up the slapstick and exaggerated grotesquery of the stepsisters while Eleana Salerno is a bubbly and kind fairy godmother.
Everyone has little moments to shine in brief solos and pas de deux and considering the short duration, gets quite a bit of showcasing.
Storytime Ballet is a step towards building future ballet fanbases – an important priority for an art form that traditionally has a more mature audience demographic.
Cinderella is something tried and true, brought to a new viewership.
The Australian Ballet presents
Storytime Ballet: Cinderella
Choreography David McAllister
Venue: Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne VIC
Dates: 13 – 17 December 2023
Sydney (20-29 December), Adelaide (4-7 January), Canberra (11-14 January) ad Brisbane (18 -21 January)