Monday 21 May 2018

Let's All Dance: The Princess and the Frog

Since discovering Let's All Dance and their engaging, tailored and well pitched ballets for children, we've been to see The Owl and the Pussycat and most recently the Princess and the Frog. Short and (importantly) affordable, these productions feature two energetic dancers who engage with the audience and even have the patience to pose for a photograph with every single child after the production. This openness is indicative of the ethos of Let's All Dance which was created by founder Orit Sutton (who is always around to chat at performances) to combine fantastic dancing and beautiful costume with "crystal clear storytelling to engage and delight young audiences". We were sitting beside another family who admitted they were rather addicted to the series.

The Princess and the Frog is an original ballet and score, intended to open up classical ballet for the youngest of viewers. Based on a fairytale with an important message, the dancers bring to life the spoilt princess only concerned for her own games, and a frog desperate for a friend. Losing her golden ball into the pool, the princess uses the frog to retrieve it, promising a friendship she had no intention of keeping. However, little by little the frog and the princess become attached and as the princess's behaviour changes, ultimately she is able to free the playmate she has grown to love. 

As I've written before, one of the unique elements of the Let's All Dance Ballets is their intimacy. You feel closer to the dancers than in a normal ballet, with the Owl and the Pussycat it was almost as if the dancers had come to dance just for us in our own home, they were so close you felt as if you were on the stage with them. Though the Princess and the Frog was in a larger theatre the dancers still achieved this proximity to the audience, coming out into the aisles while they danced and inviting one lucky little chap onto the stage to take part in the performance.

Through having children I'm increasingly loving rediscovering fairy tales and myths and they remain core favourites in the bedtime story selections. Usborne does a great selection (from the very well known to the fabulous and more obscure) as part of their brilliant Early Readers series, likewise Ladybird has a wide selection and through the years has produced various versions of the Princess and the Frog - some strikingly 80s in style! Albert Einstein famously noted: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” The moral messages, the story construction, the imagination, their foundation in much adult referencing and fiction... Like myths and biblical stories, such tales form a canon of references that help us to understand our culture better. Seeing these stories come alive on stage in such a memorable way really adds to the magic of this discovery. We are loving Russian fairy tales at present. I'm even indulging in some adult editions. I highly recommend The Bear and the Nightingale and its sequel The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden, and many of the ten year olds in our life are devouring the inventive School for Good and Evil.

Why not do some follow on science too inspired by the story? I've found that Spring is such a perfect time to explore the theme of life cycles. We have six brilliant Safariology life-cycle model sets which come in four or five stages of a creature's development and encourage exploration, sorting and play. The frog edition comes in five parts and is scrumptiously tactile for hands-on learning.

A few years ago I set up a simple pond-like sensory play tub with the frog set using a base of green water beads. This fun little resource (not for children who still mouth) grow from tiny beads with the addition of water, and they are slimy and squishable to the touch. Once the weather improved we also incorporated some of these little models in a spot of outdoor water play. We are also fans of pond dipping. See here for some associated summer activities.

Let's All Dance will be touring with their new production, Alice in Wonderland, from May.
Please visit their website for more info and to book tickets:

Disclaimer: We received tickets for the performance for the purposes of review. All opinions are very much our own.

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