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Creating Elves & the Shoemaker

Alongside his work as Northern Ballet’s full-time Ballet Master, Daniel de Andrade has created work for companies including Northern Ballet and Ballet Central as well as creating a piece for Overworlds & Underworlds for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Daniel’s latest choreographic project is our next children’s ballet, a delightful retelling of the classic tale Elves & the Shoemaker. We spoke to Daniel to find out more about creating our newest ballet for children.

How did you choose Elves & the Shoemaker for our next children’s ballet?

I was speaking to my wife and two daughters in the car when my wife suggested Elves & the Shoemaker. Surprisingly I’d never heard of this Grimm’s fairytale but when I started to research it that evening I found it to be a very simple story that lends itself well to dance. It’s a really feel-good story because the Shoemaker and his wife are in a sad situation but, with the help of the elves, their lives are turned around and they reciprocate by giving clothes to the elves so they don’t get cold.

What is the process for creating a children’s ballet?

With Elves & the Shoemaker I took the classic story and turned it into a scenario for the ballet which helped me to absorb the story and decide how to present it on stage. For a children’s ballet you have to present it in a very pure way that is easy to interpret. Once you have the scenario then you can start to create the atmosphere around it with the sets, costumes and music to bring everything together. I feel a sense of freedom in creating the children’s ballet because you can be silly knowing that children have fun with it. There’s a kid inside of everyone anyway so tapping into that is useful and also means that parents should find the ballet enjoyable and funny as well.

Tell us about the music for Elves & the Shoemaker.

We’ve commissioned Philip Feeney (Cinderella) to compose a new score for the ballet so it will be set to original music. The story always comes first but I’ve been able to pass all the details on to Philip who has added an extra dimension to the ballet by including little inflections to really bring out the comedy and personalities of the characters. I couldn’t have asked for a better composer, the music sounds fantastic and I just hope my choreography can do it justice.

How are the dancers involved with creating the ballet?

The dancers are all skilled professionals who are experienced with creating narrative ballets from scratch. For this project I chose dancers from the Company who I know will do a really good job with the scenario and help with their own creative input. The cast of Elves & the Shoemaker is six dancers to play 12 characters and at the moment I’m creating on Sebastian Loe as the Shoemaker, Olivia Holland as his wife, Filippo Di Vilio and Kiara Flavin as the elves and then Sean Bates and Luisa Rocco do three characters each.

How are children going to be involved in the creative process?

We have been working with a group of schoolchildren who have been coming in to the studios to give feedback during the creation of the ballet. We will also have a test audience of children who will come to see the finished ballet at preview performances to give their honest opinion. Children can be brutally honest so the only way to get their true opinion is to ask them. Their reaction is valuable in the latter stages of the creative process where everything is ready but you still have time to tweak it based on their feedback. Children can react and interpret things in unexpected ways so it is important to know that the children are not frightened of anything in the ballet and that they understand what is taking place on stage. With our previous children’s ballet their reaction has generally been positive and we’ve been able to pick out parts that children have responded well to so the dancers can use that to inform their performance and where they should exaggerate what they’re doing.

Why do you think the children’s ballets have been so popular?

There are many reasons why our children’s ballets have been successful. I think that children appreciate the fact that we’ve created something specifically for them and the length of the ballet, being around 40 minutes, is good because they get immediate access to the story and don’t have to sit still for too long. We’ve been very lucky to have this idea to create original ballets for children from our Learning team who identified this opportunity. Most of all Sebastian Loe and Dreda Blow (Ugly Duckling) and Hannah Bateman and Victoria Sibson (Three Little Pigs) created these works of art that parents and children love and I’m looking forward to hopefully doing the same.

Elves & the Shoemaker premières at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds from 27 Oct – 1 Nov 2014. To book, visit theatreleeds.com or call 0113 220 8008.

Touring to

Elves & the Shoemaker
Middlesbrough Theatre
01642 81 51 81
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.15
2.00
5.00
Elves & the Shoemaker
Bridlington, The Spa
01262 678258
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.30
2.15
5.00
Elves & the Shoemaker
Goole, Junction
01405 763 652
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M T W T F S S
2.00
4.00
6.00
Elves & the Shoemaker
Barnsley Civic
01226 327000
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.15
2.00
4.00
Elves & the Shoemaker
Berwick, The Maltings Theatre
01289 330 999
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.15
2.00
4.00
Elves & the Shoemaker
Durham, Gala Theatre
0300 026 6600
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.15
2.00
6.30
Elves & the Shoemaker
Peterborough, Key Theatre
01733 207239
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.15
2.00
4.00
Elves & the Shoemaker
Lancaster, The Dukes Theatre
01524 598500
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.15
2.00
4.00
Elves & the Shoemaker
Harrogate Theatre
01423 502 116
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.15
2.00
4.00
Elves & the Shoemaker
Barrow-in-Furness, The Forum
01229 820000
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.15
2.00
4.00
Elves & the Shoemaker
Stirling, MacRobert Theatre
01786 466666
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.15
2.00
4.00
Elves & the Shoemaker
Huddersfield, Lawrence Batley Theatre
01484 430528
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.15
2.00
4.00
Elves & the Shoemaker
Norwich, Theatre Royal
01603 630 000
Show Times
M T W T F S S
11.30
1.30
Elves & the Shoemaker
Southampton, The Mayflower
02380 711811
Show Times
M T W T F S S
11.30
1.30
Elves & the Shoemaker
Milton Keynes Theatre
0844 871 7652
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.00
2.00
Elves & the Shoemaker
London, Linbury Studio Theatre at Royal Opera House
to
020 7304 4000
Show Times
M T W T F S S
3.00
5.00
3.00
5.00
Elves & the Shoemaker
Doncaster, Cast
01302 303 959
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.30
2.15
Elves & the Shoemaker
Blackpool, the Grand Theatre
01253 290190
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.30
2.15
Elves & the Shoemaker
Liverpool Playhouse
0151 709 4776
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.30
2.15
Elves & the Shoemaker
Wolverhampton, Grand Theatre
01902 429212
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.30
2.15
Elves & the Shoemaker
Leicester, Curve Theatre
0116 242 3595
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.30
Elves & the Shoemaker
Richmond Theatre
0844 871 7651
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.30
2.15
Elves & the Shoemaker
Bromley, Churchill Theatre
08448 717 620
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.30
2.15
Elves & the Shoemaker
Stoke, Regent Theatre
0844 871 7649
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.30
2.15
Elves & the Shoemaker
Aylesbury, Waterside Theatre
0844 871 7607
Show Times
M T W T F S S
12.30
2.15

Dates, times and productions are subject to change without notice.