My First Ballet: Swan Lake with ENB


It’s surely never too early to introduce children to theatre and instil a love of the arts. What, never? OK, I will admit there are some limitations – babes in arms are probably not going to get much out of a play and Wagner is unlikely to be ideal for the average ten-year-old. But, if you choose wisely, you can all enjoy the same production, particularly if it is designed with the young (even the very young) in mind.

For one thing, these kinds of production will deliver a “relaxed” atmosphere so it isn’t a problem if a small person talks, stands up or needs to go to the loo. It will also be designed to work for short attention spans with plenty of breaks. And it might even bring some explanations along the way for anyone who’s finding it hard to follow the plot.

Adriana Lizardi as Odile and Edvinas Jakonis as Prince Siegfried in My First Ballet Swan Lake, choreography by Antonio Castilla, English National Ballet School

And so it is with English National Ballet’s Easter show for children, Swan Lake. Now, for those who know the ballet, this version comes with a few surprises. First of all, the plot has changed completely. It’s only just over an hour long. The cast has been drastically downsized (a necessity in any case for the relatively small Peacock Theatre stage). And there’s a narrator. Shevelle Dynott is a cool dude in jeans and trainers and tells the story in estuary English. He’s definitely down with the kids. But – and I think the ENB might have missed a trick here – the kids in this audience are wearing tutus and tiaras. Maybe a fairy godmother would have fitted the bill better.

Nonetheless, his narration keeps everyone up to speed in an almost brand new plot with the nastiest bits removed and – spoiler alert – a happy ending that’s all to do with Odette and Odile actually being the best of friends. This version definitely doesn’t feature death by water.

Edvinas Jakonis as Prince Siegfried

I went along with Eva (aged seven) and Gigi (almost four) and they were very impressed, particularly with the swans (sadly, though, no cygnets). They were satisfyingly disapproving of the wicked sorcerer, Rothbart, and interested to see whether boys or girls could jump higher.

And – despite the restrictions of the stage – there were some excellent jumps, especially from Edvinas Jakonis as Prince Siegfried. Isabella Agnew-Huertas was a stately Queen and William Simmons a sinister Rothbart. Due to the changes in the plot, it was necessary to have two dancers for Odette and Odile, rather than one ballerina playing both roles. Chloe Keneally was a lovely Odette and, as Odile, Adriana Lizardi was a dazzling non-baddie.

Chloe Keneally as Odette and Edvinas Jakonis as Prince Siegfried

The music is still Tchaikovsky but shortened and re-arranged by Gavin Sutherland who also conducts the recorded performance of the English National Ballet Philharmonic. Short, sweet and definitely an Easter treat. Eva and Gigi practised their curtseys all the way home…

My First Ballet: Swan Lake runs at the Peacock Theatre until 13th April with morning, afternoon and early evening performances. For more information, and for tickets, please visit