balletLORENT presents a new short documentary about our work with a Professional Guest Cast of North East based professional dance artists, performing with their pre-school children, and our Youth Academy Cast for the premiere performances of Rapunzel and Rapunzel After Dark in Newcastle.
Our premiere performances of both Rapunzel (for families) and Rapunzel After Dark (for adult audiences) took place at Northern Stage, Newcastle earlier this year. Each production featured a guest cast:
We commissioned local filmmaker, Saya Naruse, to create this short documentary charting the process and successes of the Rapunzel Professional Guest Artist and Youth Academy Cast in Newcastle.
The film forms part of our evaluation of the Newcastle project.
As Rapunzel tours to theatres across the UK in 2023 and 2024, we will be seeking to work with regional dance artists with pre-school children, and offering opportunities to local primary schools as we recruit young children into our community cast
Our commitment to artists with caring responsibilities extended this year, as we devised a programme to support artists who are new parents to return to paid performance work.
Four female North East based dance artists (Lizzie Klotz, Jenny Chrisp, Alys North, Megan Brown) and their pre-school children joined our professional cast as guest artists, for Rapunzel and Rapunzel After Dark. Rehearsals took place through the summer with all four guest artists and their children, at the John Marley Centre and Northern Stage. The parents were given the flexibility to decide whether to join both of our productions – their scenes would have been similar in both shows, but the later start time for Rapunzel After Dark could have been a barrier to committing. We were delighted, however that all four artists opted to take part in both shows.
By the time of the shows, the eldest child was 15 months, and the youngest just seven weeks. We appreciated how daunting it may have been to participate in a major project so soon after childbirth and ensured the new mothers under no obligation to commit to the project in its entirety should they feel unable to for physical, emotional or any other reasons. The newest mother commented after the project that participating had been a great confidence boost for her to realise that she can still dance, and balance life with a new baby.
Throughout the project, we ensured time to talk to parents about how we could support their needs – flexible scheduling; additional paid time to arrive, feed, nappy change etc; subsidising travel; providing a support worker; and providing a playpen in the rehearsal space with mattresses, toys, and soft play. The parents were involved in co-creating the choreography that was adaptive to their and their baby’s needs, whether that be sleeping, feeding, soothing, etc.
Parents reported how much their babies enjoyed the experience – the sensory one, with music, lights, props, dressing up. The older ones enjoyed playing with each other, and dancing to music. We are extremely grateful to all the guest parents, and their families, for committing to this project, and for their tireless contributions to the work, while still discovering and managing new family life.
‘My young baby was stimulated in the rehearsals, and I never felt worried about her. It was such a great sensory experience for her to be in the theatre with lights, sound, and movement.’ Alys, Professional Guest Artist
‘I felt empowered to do what I needed to do in rehearsal and on stage.’ Megan, Professional Guest Artist
‘Being part of the project with such a young baby has given me confidence to try new things, and encouraged me to get out the house more.’ Jenny, Professional Guest Artist
‘It was helpful to see other mums around who knew what you were going through. I felt, “Oh I can do this!”.’ Megan, Professional Guest Artist
The inclusion of young participants in the cast of Rapunzel was a huge success artistically, and personally for all the children and their families. All fourteen members of our Youth Academy formed the young community cast, co-creating their roles within the work throughout weekly term time sessions from May to September, and a short summer intensive.
The balletLORENT Youth Academy supports talented children aged 7-14 years from across the city to achieve their artistic and theatrical potential, through working with our world-class artists and guest collaborators in weekly workshops and special holiday classes. All this is offered for free. Among the current Youth Academy cohort, eight children have previously performed in balletLORENT works (Snow White , Rumpelstiltskin , The Lost Happy Endings ), whilst for six this was the first time performing on any stage. Some of the six new children were found through an additional workshop programme in local primary schools.
Their involvement was integral to the storytelling of the production, and their contributions were valued as any other member of the company, professional or otherwise. We are grateful to the children for committing their creativity and energy to Rapunzel, and we extend thanks to their families for their unending support.
‘It was good to perform and be on a big stage because my friends, family and teacher could see what I have been working on – see me dance! Everything was wonderful!’ Dara, Youth Academy Member
‘It made me nervous, but it was good performing in front of people – it was exciting! I felt like I knew exactly what I was doing because of all the rehearsals and practicing. I enjoyed them.’ Hayden, Youth Academy Member
‘My family were proud of me that I did a good job.’ Phelisha, Youth Academy Member
‘It was a great experience to perform again after a while and express ourselves with other people again.’ Otto, Youth Academy Member
‘It was a little bit scary that there was lots of audience. But in the end it wasn’t because of the dance. I felt like I knew everything I needed to do.’ Grace, Youth Academy Member
balletLORENT is a PiPA (Parents and Carers in Performing Arts) Charter Partner. PiPA supports arts organisations across the UK to implement family-friendly working practices. PiPA enables and empower parents, carers, and employers to achieve sustainable change in attitudes and practices in order to attract, support and retain a more diverse and flexible workforce.