Northern Ballet: Three Little Pigs, Elves & the Shoemaker, Tortoise & the Hare (4 stars)

Northern Ballet: Three Little Pigs, Elves & the Shoemaker, Tortoise & the Hare

Three Little Pigs / credit: Brian Slater

Ballet company hits the big screen with three gorgeous films for little ones

Proving that body language communicates just as much, if not more, than words, these three short films from Northern Ballet convey everything that needs to be said – without a hint of confusion.

It's not unheard of for adults to lose hold of a ballet's narrative thread at times, so it would be easy to assume that children might struggle to follow an entire storyline without a single word being spoken. But so much time and effort has gone into crafting Three Little Pigs, Elves & the Shoemaker, and Tortoise and the Hare, that there's never a moment when you don't know exactly what's going on – or how you're meant to feel about it.

When the Shoemaker gives away his last slice of bread to a hungry passer-by, his generosity looms large – and is suitably rewarded when the elves pitch up to make him some fabulous shoes to sell. Similarly, we're all rooting for the Tortoise to teach the arrogant Hare a thing or two about patience and kindness, and for all three of the Pigs to escape the Wolf's jaws (which they do in this re-worked version).

Having invested a hefty amount of talent and money into its children's ballet programme since 2013, it's a wise move by Northern Ballet to spread the results wider than a theatre tour could reach. With 200 screenings of the ballets at cinemas across the UK, thousands more will get to see the gorgeous costumes, colourful sets, fun, accessible choreography and technically strong dancing that makes up these 45-minute ballets.

While there's nothing quite like the live experience, these screenings come very close – and actually benefit from additional animation peppered throughout the action. Also exclusive to cinema audiences, is the presence of BBC presenter and Strictly Come Dancing contestant, Anita Rani, who opens each ballet with a segment of warmly-delivered storytelling, before learning some dance moves from the characters themselves.

In an age when staring at a screen is part of everyday life for most children, a trip to the cinema still has a special quality – likewise visiting the theatre. These films leave you feeling you've done both at the same time.

Northern Ballet: Three Little Pigs

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • UK
  • Cast: Mariana Rodrigues, Teresa Saavedra Bordes, Matthew Topliss, Sebastian Loe, Olivia Holland

Ballet for kids based on the tale of three pigs with very differing approaches to construction.

Northern Ballet: Elves & the Shoemaker

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • UK
  • Cast: Sebastian Loe, Olivia Holland, Filippo Di Vilio, Kiara Flavin, Saskia Wilkinson, Gavin McCaig, Duncan Anderson, Nami Kitagawa, Dominique Larose, Hironao Takahashi

Northern Ballet retell the classic tale from the Brothers Grimm.

Northern Ballet: Tortoise & the Hare

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • UK
  • Cast: Gavin McCaig, Luke Francis, Kaylee Marko, Archie Sullivan, Jenny Hackwell, Natalia Kerner

Child-friendly take on the Aesop's fable.

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