review by Crystal Wood
This was my daughter’s first ballet. Not her first ballet class or recital but the first time she ever sat in the audience enraptured by the dancers, costumes, story and live music. I am so glad her initial exposure to a ballet performance was The Portland Ballet’s recent presentation of Firebird and The Enchanted Toyshop.
Firebird is based on the Slavic tale of the fantastical bird from a land far away. And though the bird’s plumage glows red, orange and yellow is a blessing for its captor it can also bring disaster. Prince Ivan comes upon this rare beauty while hunting in a magical garden and captures it. However he is empathetic, listens to her pleading and releases her. In gratitude, she bequeaths him with one magic, red feather. The prince then comes upon a group princesses under the spell of an evil sorcerer, one of which he is smitten with. Here there ensues a great battle between the two men. But only one has a feather from the Firebird and with it her sworn help and protection.
The Enchanted Toyshop brings on the lighter holiday faire but is filled with magic and wonder. This toyshop of long ago has life-size figures that range from a wooden boy puppet, to toy soldiers, to two beret adorned French poodles and many more. But it’s only when two curious children stay behind after the store is closed that we find out just how enchanted this store is. The story is also about the toy maker who brushes off his wife’s adoration because the toys are not selling. He regrets his actions when the Blue Fairy invites her to join her, along with the enchanted tales. Are his apologies and appreciation too little, too late?
All of the dancers were superb to us. We aren’t ballet aficionados who know the name of each step or movement but we know what we like. The dancers were just as dedicated to their craft as any of the larger dance companies. The PSU symphony was an added bonus and one my daughter was enamored with. It was so refreshing to hear live accompaniment.
Lincoln Hall on Portland State University’s campus is a charming place to watch the performance. The hall is smaller and cozier than places like the Keller Auditorium, but it was also comfortable and very manageable with small children. There’s a lot to be said for nearby restrooms with short lines. If you can bring along a booster for the smaller children, do so.
As an audience member, I felt our presence was appreciated and it showed in their performances. On-stage were children and adult dancers of varying ages but it was the little kids in period costumes in the second story that really caught my daughter’s attention. No matter the era, the joy of a child exploring a toy store is one that many children can relate to.
Crystal and her family were given tickets to attend this performance on behalf of PDX Kids Calendar for review. They were in no way compensated for their opinions.
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