The Velveteen Rabbit is a Perfect Ballet for Young Audiences
Canada’s Ballet Jörgen’s production of The Velveteen Rabbit is as enjoyable an afternoon at the theatre as an educational introduction to ballet aimed at children needs to be. It is full of enough wonder and spectacle to keep the attention of a house full of small children entertained and is impressive and nostalgia-inducing enough to appeal to parents too.
I’ll have to admit that as a post-grad university student with no children I don’t think I’m really a part of the audience the Canada’s Ballet Jörgen is targeting with this production, but my companion and I both really enjoyed spending an hour watching this show this afternoon.
Kathleen Rea, the choreographer, has distilled the well-known story into a short series of dances weaved together with some brief narration in a way that blends forms of storytelling that might be more familiar to children with ballet storytelling in a way that I think was really successful.
There are a few magical moments where the dancing is really technically impressive, like when Gustavo Hernandez is first introduced as the Top, that make this show better than the average children’s stock theatre for me. Hernandez does a series of fouettés en tournant in this role that blew me away. The rabbit quartet near the end of the ballet was also excellent, and I’m pretty sure it made the man next to me – who also came to the show as an adult without kids – cry with joy.
Daniel Da Silva captures the wide-eyed wonder of the Boy beautifully. He also does some very skilled dancing, like when he throws Saniya Abilmajineva (who dances The Velveteen Rabbit) around his body as easily as he does the stuffed toy that also represents the titular rabbit.
In fact, there isn’t a member of the cast whose performance isn’t solid even when the choreography isn’t as sophisticated as a ballet aficionado might want it to be. Most of the dancing in the show is goofy and kid friendly, but this helps to make the show really fun.
As an example, there’s a really great moment where the Germs (danced by Hannah Mae Cruddas, Gustavo Hernandez, and Heather Lumsden-Ruegg) turn around and shake their butts at the audience that earned a huge laugh from the under-seven crowd and the adult crowd alike.
Aside from being a narratively solid and well choreographed telling of a beloved children’s tale, The Velveteen Rabbit is ingeniously used as a teaching tool to introduce young children to ballet. As my companion remarked after the show, “I wish that I had had access to something like this as a kid.”
Before and after the show, we were introduced to the language and techniques the ballet company was going to use to tell us the story in a kid-friendly language. From the way that the children in the audience excitedly participated in these activities, I think this was successfully implemented.
There’s also a really cute activity where all of the kids in the audience who want to volunteer can come up to the stage and be taught a few dance moves from one of the characters in the play. Watching one of the groups giggle while they re-enacted the butt wiggle I mentioned earlier was a precious highlight of this experience.
Overall, I think Canada’s Ballet Jörgen’s The Velveteen Rabbit is an excellent experience for those in it’s target demographics and I would highly recommend it to any parent who wants to introduce their kids to the conventions of theatre and ballet.
- The Velveteen Rabbit is playing one more show on October 5 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre (404 Jarvis Street)
- The shows runs at 2pm.
- Tickets prices range are $29 for adults and $15 for children, with discounts for groups of 4 or more and are available online, or at the box office before the show
Photo of Kathleen Rea with The Velveteen Rabbit by Peter Madison.