first steps swans 

First Steps Swan Lake

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome


Crisp packets rustled, fidgety bums bounced and juice boxes were slurped in anticipation for First Steps Swan Lake at Birmingham Hippodrome over February half term.

The sold-out interactive, relaxed, performance, devised by Birmingham Royal Ballet Assistant Director Marion Tait, allowed “cheeky banana brains” of all ages a taste of theatrical magic and a chance to listen to a full orchestra set the atmosphere.

I first brought my daughter to First Steps ‘A Child’s The Dream’ based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream four years ago when she was just aged three and it had a profound effect.

To this day she still has the programme stuck on the wall and tells everyone who will listen about it. She enjoyed this time around just as much, if somewhat a little disappointed that we weren’t viewing the whole of Swan Lake.

Storyteller Owen Young dived straight in and grabbed the attention of all the rowdy sugar-fuelled youngsters as he explained how ballerinas use mime to tell the story. Boys and girls jumped up and down copying Young in his demonstrations on how to portray emotion without saying a single word.

The audience, some of whom were first-time theatre goers, were transfixed by BRB dancers Lachlan Monaghan as Prince Siegfried and Miki Mizutani as Princess Odette as they spoke alongside their mimes breaking down the confusion barriers and unravelling the secrets of the mimes then allowing the audience to copy, becoming a part of the immersive tale. Only true love can break the spell.

The famous and recognisable music composed by Tchaikovsky is performed by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, led by conductor Thomas Jung and leader Robert Gibbs. Young gets the crowd guessing which instruments are being played. Is it an oboe? Harp? Violin?

The story so far covers Odette and her friends being cast under a wicked spell by evil magician Baron von Rothbart meaning by day they are swans and by night they become princesses again. We see Odette’s friends (cygnets) Tessa Hogge, Juliette Itou, Rachele Pizzilo and Lynsey Sutherland perform the pas de quatre, the dance of the cygneys, exquisitely choreographed by Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov and Sir Peter Wright.

We are all invited to a very grand reception in the ballroom of the castle where Prince Siegfried must choose his bride from a choice of three princesses. There are gasps as the curtain rose to reveal lavish designs by Philip Prowse along with lighting by Peter Tiegen. No detail is spared as the fanfares announce the princess suitors then the surprise as two uninvited guests appear tricking Siegfried into asking Odile for her hand in marriage as the magician’s spell confuses Siegfried into thinking the magician’s daughter is in fact Odette. When Odette appeared at the window in a glow of luminescent white light Siegfried realised his mistake and the court is thrown into confusion.

First Steps Swan Lake ends with Odette and Siegfried reunited but leaving the audience wanting more and desperate to know what happens and demanding to know if true love prevails. A truly fabulous taster for all, to inspire younger generations into ballet and all that goes into this enchanting, spellbinding and bewitching classic.

BRB’s full production of Swan Lake is at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 29th February so grab those tickets online at or call the Box Office on 0844 3385000.

Emma Trimble


Review of Swan Lake

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