Peter and the wolf cubs
For the Royal Ballet's latest production, the oldest dancer on stage – by several years – is just 20. Rob Sharp reports
Tuesday 14 December 2010
Miniature hunters tip-toe across a stage to prod a wolf writhing against a noose. A narrator softly intones a children's story to the familiar pomp-pomp of an age-old tune.
Peter and the Wolf's score may be instantly recognisable, but the setting will not be. This evening sees the Royal Ballet's version of Prokofiev's famous work staged for the first time in 15 years. Its cast? Almost 50 children studying at ballet school, with the necessary inclusion of two adults as the narrator and the fabled Wolf.
"It is rare to see 46 children and only two principals from the Royal Ballet's company," said Hope Keelan, a ballet teacher at the Royal Ballet's Lower School, speaking at rehearsals yesterday. "When we do Nutcracker there are a similar number of children on the stage but there is a massive cast of adults. With Peter and the Wolf, some of these children have only been at ballet school for a year or two. There is a lot being asked of them. It's a lot of ballet."
The show, featuring children aged between 11 and 15, is likely to be one of the Royal Ballet's most popular end-of-year productions, but organisationally, it is a labour of love. Each morning, the children are woken at their home at White Lodge, their south-west London boarding school, before being driven by coach to Covent Garden. They then spend two hours assuming their make-up and costumes, some of which have been adapted from the original production.
Choreographed by Matthew Hart for the Royal Ballet School in 1995, the ballet was filmed by the BBC two years later. This year, it returns in style: with the Royal Ballet's youngest-ever male principal dancer, 20-year-old Ukrainian Sergei Polunin, as the Wolf.
"Everyone respects you; they all look up to you. For them it's amazing to have an experience with someone from the Royal Ballet," said Polunin, who joined the Royal Ballet in 2007 and was promoted to principal in June. "And I know people who previously did this production and they remember it for the rest of their lives. It's the highlight of their school life," Polunin added.
He joined the Royal Ballet School at 13 and was quickly advanced into a higher year. In 2006, aged 16, he won the coveted Prix de Lausanne. He also won this year's Critics Circle Most Outstanding Male Performance Award.
Killian Smith, 15, who plays Peter, said: "It's really exciting, a great experience and a great opportunity. I admire Mr Polunin. He is very inspirational and we all look up to him a lot."
The production was originally narrated by Sir Anthony Dowell. This year's narrator is the actor Will Kemp, who trained at the Royal Ballet School and was the first lead swan in Matthew Bourne's original production of Swan Lake.
Charlotte Edmondson, 14, who plays the Duck, said: "It's such an amazing opportunity because it is everyone's dream at White Lodge to dance on the Opera House's stage."
The production is part of a double bill running with The Tales of Beatrix Potter at the Royal Opera House until 10 January.
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Three million books were judged by their covers - this is what happened
The Gamechangers trailer: Daniel Radcliffe stars in GTA movie
Joan Aiken: Today's Google Doodle celebrates life of British fantasy novelist
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Jamie’s Sugar Rush, TV review: Defeated by school dinners, Oliver takes on a new enemy
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees