Review: London Children's Ballet - The Secret Garden - Peacock Theatre

Performance: 24 & 25 April
Reviewed by Laura Dodge - Wednesday 1 May 2013

London Children's Ballet 'The Secret Garden' Photo: John Ross

Each year, a group of specially-selected dancers aged between 9 and 16 perform at the Peacock Theatre with London Children’s Ballet. They take part in the experience for free – some because they are training or want to train vocationally and others just because they love to dance. Their performances are always excellent and this year was no exception. In spite of their ages, the cast were well-rehearsed and polished, and looked very much like a professional company.

As well as encouraging young dancers, LCB develops emerging choreographers, offering them the opportunity to create a full-length narrative work. This year the Royal Ballet’s Érico Montes took inspiration from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s charming tale, The Secret Garden. His steps are simple but effective, telling the story with clarity and appeal. He also found plenty of opportunities for the young dancers to shine. The garden’s roses became a lovely classical dance for girls in tutus and even the house’s echoing winds were translated into movement.

In the lead role of Mary, Isabel Summers was technically competent and captivating. But it was the younger boys (aged 11 and under) who stole the show. Kieran Curtin as the Robin gave a wonderfully bouncy solo that bore strong resemblance to the Sleeping Beauty Bluebird. Young Gardeners Oscar Davison, Rin Ishikawa and Spencer Vale were also utterly irresistible as they energetically jumped around holding garden spades.

The performers are lucky enough to be accompanied by a live orchestra who play Artem Vassiliev’s stunning score to perfection under the baton of Philip Hesketh. Sets by Neil Irish and costumes by Eva Le Blanc are also excellent.

Not only is it an obvious delight for the young dancers to be part of London Children’s Ballet, but it’s also a delight to watch. The talent onstage never ceases to amaze, as does the talent behind the scenes (in the form of artistic director Lucille Briance) who manages to put together such a professional show with 57 youngsters.

Laura Dodge writes for a number of publications including Dancing Times, The Londonist and English National Ballet’s Dance is the Word blog.

Photos: John Ross

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