Northern Ballet: Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Northern Ballet have produced a series of ballets specifically choreographed for children, the latest of which is Goldilocks and the Three Bears. My friend and I took two six-year-olds and a nine-year old, and we all loved it.

There is an inherent contradiction for me in the Goldilocks story. The ending always feels anticlimactic, with a degree (depending on the version) of punishment – and yet the story is only enjoyable if we identify with the Goldilocks character.

The plot of the ballet was reasonably faithful to the traditional story, with the addition of a bird who was an occasionally-overbearing friend. I really enjoyed this – it created the opportunity for some lovely pas de deux, helped to highlight and give context to Goldilock’s mischievous, rebellious nature, and also (for the adults, although my little ones unanimously declared her their favourite) showcased a delightfully queer flirtation between Goldilocks and a rather foxy fox.

I won’t say how this production chose to handle the ending, except that I found it very satisfying. My daughter – who has a deep loyalty to the original story – did not approve, although she did declare the final dance her favourite bit.

The quality of movement particularly appealed to me. Each of the characters had their own style – Goldilocks was pretty, the bird light and strong, Daddy Bear undeniably cool… There were some lovely details during the iconic porridge-and-chair-and-bed-testing scenes where Goldilocks imitated the bears’ signature moves without losing her own style, for which I think the dancer (Carlotta Pini, in this performance) deserves a great deal of credit. It was also funny without losing any of its class, which I think shows respect for the young audience.

The whole performance lasted 40 minutes, with six dancers and four musicians. The music was just right, I thought: like the dancing itself, it trod a fine line between traditional ballet conventions and a hint of modernity, and there were some lovely, evocative themes which helped to distinguish the characters.

We went to the ‘relaxed’ performance, which meant that there were a lot of younger children and children with disabilities in the audience – and also that our own children could eat crisps and ask questions when they got confused. There was a row of giant cushions at the front for those who needed them, and people got up from time to time to go to the toilet. I think it’s worth mentioning quite how, well, relaxed this made the experience – so much less tense and distracting than the constant ‘shushing’ and arguments with confused, unhappy children which friends have reported during recent ‘mainstream’ theatre outings.

This production is about to begin touring. I would highly recommend it to anyone with children – and possibly those without.

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