The last of our wonderful theatre outings for the year was the brand new Storytime Ballet The Sleeping Beauty by The Australian Ballet.
The Storytime Ballets are a new initiative born out of a growing demand for ballets suitable for children to enjoy from an early age. According to The Australian Ballet’s Executive Director Libby Christie, over 420,000 children participate in dance activities across Australia every week (including little Cheese!). Designed for children aged three and up, the Storytime Ballet has been created from start to finish with young theatre-goers in mind.
Last week we were lucky enough to see another version of The Sleeping Beauty, the Once Upon A Time version also by The Australian Ballet. I wasn’t sure how the two performances would differ, and was really happy to see that this brand new Storytime Ballet show was actually a completely different performance in every way. Unlike the Once Upon A Time ballets, which are almost the same as the original performances with a few tweaks, the Storytime Ballets are built from scratch to engage children with an interactive performance.
It’s really the perfect way to introduce very young children to the ballet. A narrator, who is also part of the cast of characters, talks through the performance as it is happening to make it easier for little kids to understand the story (I get it, ballet mime can take a bit of getting used to!). The kids felt like part of the show instead of just observers thanks to interactive moments where they were asked to use their magic to drive the story forward. I particularly appreciated the acknowledgment of parents too, when it was suggested that, instead of magic, we “use the force”.
A smaller cast and set allows the show to travel nationally – and also made the show a lot less overwhelming for children. It’s much easier to focus on what’s happening when there is less to take in. I did notice that the kids, even little toddlers who looked to be under the recommended age of 3, were highly engaged throughout the show, and I think that this, as well as the addition of the narrator, certainly helped to make this ballet a success. At just under an hour, the ballet is also the perfect length to entertain kids before they lose attention.
In the foyer outside the Drama Theatre are a range of free activities for kids to enjoy before and after the show. iPads set up with ballet-themed drawing activities that can be sent to parents’ phones, there are ballet costumes for kids to dress up in and also an irresistible store stocked with ballet-themed gifts such as clothes, wands, tiaras and The Sleeping Beauty music on CD. The proceeds from sales all to back to The Australian Ballet and supporting their amazing work.
While we saw The Sleeping Beauty at the Sydney Opera House, kids around the country will be able to enjoy the same show as it tours nationally over the summer.
STORYTIME BALLET: The Sleeping Beauty tour dates
Arts Centre Melbourne 16 – 20 December 2015
Sydney Opera House 23 – 27 December 2015
The Concourse Chatswood, Sydney, 30 December 2015 – 3 January 2016
The Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong, 7 – 9 January 2016
Evan Theatre Penrith, Sydney, 12 – 16 January 2016
The Playhouse Canberra, 20 – 23 January 2016
The Arts Centre Gold Coast, 29 – 30 March 2016
Brisbane Powerhouse, 1 – 2 April 2016
Further dates and venues will be announced early in 2016.