Friday 13 March 2015

First Steps: A Child's Coppelia Review

Since I first took Ebony to the theatre and discovered the wonder that is children’s theatre, I’ve made it my mission to make sure we attend regularly. I think going to see productions at the theatre is such a wonderful experience for young children, it’s so unlike day to day life. Theatre brings stories to life, sets can be magical and actors can be inspiring. We’ve been to see a few shows now, all based on children’s books, and Ebony has loved them all.

When I saw First Steps: A Child’s Coppelia was on at The Lowry, I decided to book tickets. I’ve never seen the ballet before, and Ebony certainly has no idea what ballet is, but it was only £10 each and I figured it would be a good new experience. I didn’t say much about it in the run up to the day, mostly because I had no idea what to expect.

We nipped into Manchester on the way to pick up some lunch, and sat on a bench outside Media City eating our falafel wraps at full speed before rushing in. I’d forgotten that I’d managed to get front row tickets (the joy of checking your emails eight zillion times a day is that you are always one of the first to see theatre newsletters…), and felt instantly excited when the theatre attendant pointed us to our seats.

We were right on the end of the front row, situated just about the live orchestra. I had no idea there was going to be a live orchestra so this alone made me want to weep with excitement (this is not an exaggeration, the theatre makes me very emotional). I pointed out a few of the more commonly known instruments to Ebony and then, upon realising I didn’t know any names other than drum and trumpet, indicated she should listen to the woman next to us instead who was telling her child the names of every instrument in the 60 person orchestra.

Soon it was time for the show to begin, and a compere walked out on the stage. He was really good, and got all the children excited about the show. He talked a little bit about what ballet is (this was all news to me), what to expect, and explained the show's plot. He invited out a few of the main characters and explained who they were in the story. He pointed out the orchestra and explained a bit more about what they would be doing during the performance. He also talked a bit about how the characters communicate through dance, and even got the children joining in. He then went into a few of the other details, including the stage lights. A backstage technician was brought onto the stage holding a huge light, which was really interesting. I’m not sure I was aware of things like stage lighting until I was much older, so I thought  this was a great idea and Ebony seemed really interested.

After this, it was time for the show to begin. I know nothing about ballet, and have never seen anyone really ballet dance apart from perhaps the odd clip on television so I’m no expert, but it was amazing. Truly amazing. The dancers were so skilled, and the story completely captivated my three year old who looked amazed at all of the dancers (particularly the lead). I was completely taken aback by the dancing, it was just so impressive. The set was enchanting, and the orchestra were wonderful. They didn’t perform the whole of Coppelia, but did do the whole of the second act. I’m not sure how long it went on for, but Ebony was completely enthralled the entire time. She clapped so hard during the applause, and had a look of amazement on her face while she exclaimed to me that ‘they danced on tippy toes!’

The compere came back out and invited everyone up to the Circle Bar to meet some of the dancers. This really isn’t Ebony’s sort of thing. Despite being one hundred percent in love with Elsa (of Frozen), she completely freezes if we ever happen to be at a birthday party with Elsa. She doesn’t smile on the photos, doesn’t want a cuddle, and she cried when we met Santa. She’s really not a photo opportunity sort of girl, so I was really surprised when she said she wanted to meet the dancers.

We made our way up to the bar, me fully expecting us to simply watch from the sidelines, and made our way into the crowd. The first dancer we came across was Doctor Coppelius himself, who Ebony looked terrified of so we made a quick exit. That’s when we stumbled across a dancer who played one of Swanhilda’s friends. Ebony firmly grabbed my hand and walked towards her, waiting for her turn to say hello. The little girl before us departed, and Ebony rushed forwards to say hello to the dancer (who was really lovely). Together they gave a big smile for my camera, before the dancer gave Ebony a kiss on the cheek to say goodbye. This left a lipstick mark that Ebony treasured for the rest of the day (‘a ballerina kissed me, mummy!’).

As we were making our way to the exit, we stumbled across the crowd gathered around Coppelia herself. After staring mesmerised at her dancing on the very tips of her toes for half an hour, Ebony was not going to miss an opportunity to say hello. She was, I would say, completely besotted with Coppelia’s dancing. Ebony waited patiently while a few other girls had their photos taken with the dancer. Coppelia turned to Ebony, and Ebony immediately launched herself into her arms and gave her the most loving cuddle I have ever seen (way more loving than the ones I get). They posed for a photo together, and then Ebony spent the whole of the journey home telling me how amazing ballerinas were because they can dance on their tiptoes!

‘I’m going to be a ballerina when I’m big enough, mummy.’ she said, and when I asked if she’d like to do lessons one day she said, ‘I don’t need lessons, I’m already really good.’

And she has been practicing ever since.

First Steps: A Child’s Coppelia was performed by the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and is absolutely worth a watch if it’s coming to your area. I’m already hoping they’ll be doing a similar performance of Swan Lake when they are back at The Lowry later in the year.

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