REVIEW: The Princess and The Frog, Let’s All Dance (Blackheath Halls)

Ballet doesn’t exactly have a reputation as the most accessible art-form, even for adults. So there can’t be many parents who relish the idea of dragging fidgety small people to sit in silence for a couple of hours, while perfectly poised superhumans in tights make something stupidly difficult look effortless and graceful. Yet plenty of parents spend hours of their own lives wrestling little people into leotards, stuffing tiny feet into even tinier ballet shoes and watching on with embarassment as their children run round and round the local church hall while their ballet teacher tries in vain to control them. Ok, that last bit may be our particular problem. But either way, a child who can’t manage an hour of good toes and naughty toes is probably unlikely to want to sit through a full length ballet. And Mummy is certainly not willing to pay lots of lovely money to find this out the hard way. (Actually – whisper it – Mummy is not sure that she could sit through an entire ballet herself). But thanks to Let’s All Dance, she doesn’t have to.

Let’s All Dance is a touring company that brings professional ballet to young audiences. Their short shows give children (and cynical adults) a taste of ballet in a relaxed environment, without the expense associated with a full-blown production. Having enjoyed their production of Sleeping Beauty at Blackheath Halls last year, we jumped at the chance to catch their return to Blackheath with The Princess and The Frog.

The Princess and The Frog is a much smaller scale show than its predecessor, starring just two dancers. (Predictably one plays the princess, the other the frog!) It is also shorter, running at just 30 minutes, and is accompanied by narration to help younger audience members follow the story. This makes it appear accessible to children although it has the potential knock-on effect of alienating non-English speakers. This feels slightly odd, since Mummy thinks that once of the best things about dance is that it transcends language barriers. And our experience is that the best shows for young children tend to avoid using much if any spoken word at all. This slight gripe aside, the actual action on stage is enjoyable. There is a decent amount of ballet on display, with some more interactive elements to entertain the children (such as the dancers playing hide and seek among the audience). The small cast and minimal staging mean that it’s not a particularly showy production but it does give children a good idea of what ballet is all about. And for the budding ballet dancers of the audience, there is an opportunity to have your photo taken on stage at the end. As ever, Quaver was the first in the queue! Both munchkins then bounced home like frogs.

Mummy is still not sure that she would brave a longer ballet with the munchkins, but would happily bring them back to another Let’s All Dance production. They’re back with The Nutcracker in December, so no doubt we’ll find ourselves back at Blackheath Halls soon….

RATING: Raindrops, Whiskers and Kettles (aka 3 out of 5 of my favourite things).

The Princess and The Frog was on tour in September and October 2019. We saw it at Blackheath Halls on 23 October.