Youngsters bring The Nutcracker to the Eastbourne stage

South Coast Ballet, an amateur youth ballet company which grew out of the immediate aftermath of the lockdowns, offers its second major production.
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As company artistic director Rachael Mitchell says, it’s all about enhancing the experience for young dancers after all the frustrations so many of them went through during Covid.

After a debut production of the two-act ballet of The Tales of Beatrix Potter at the Congress Theatre, Eastbourne with 25 dancers last year, this year they are back with at the Congress on Saturday, November 25 performing The Nutcracker with a cast of more 60 dancers this time. The youngest is eight, the oldest 23, with some adults playing character roles as well.

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“We set up in 2021 just coming out of the second lockdown and with all the restrictions lifting after Covid. We had months of trying to teach children on Zoom in their living rooms and I just saw how their enthusiasm was really lacking and just dropping away. When you are doing lots of shows and competitions then what you are learning in the competitions means that you can be practising techniques that you can use when you are doing the shows and the whole thing just really pays off for all those hours of work but when none of that was able to happen I just really saw that the enthusiasm had gone and I could see people dropping out of classes. And I know just how fantastic a thing it is to do, to build up and develop that technical ability which can be quite tricky but can be really useful still even if you aren't going into a career in ballet but are going into other types of dance instead. And then from my own experience I've seen that when you've got teenagers it can get quite difficult at that age to encourage them to keep going so that's why we set up this company.

South Coast Ballet (contributed pic)South Coast Ballet (contributed pic)
South Coast Ballet (contributed pic)

“With The Tales of Beatrix Potter it went really, really well. We had quite a small cast but the audience was nearly 600 in the Congress. It was only the one night. It costs a lot of money so we couldn't afford to do anymore but it has been great and this time we had more than 90 applications. I'm a freelance teacher so they're not all my own pupils. It's just an extra thing that young people can do and we've got people come coming from all over the place, from Burgess Hill and Brighton and from Tunbridge Wells and from Hastings. And in the company we have got 63 young dancers with a wide age range, but the good thing about doing Nutcracker is that there are different-age dances so we're able to split up into three different age ranges. They were all able to learn their dances at an appropriate level for their age and ability and they have all responded really well. It can be quite tricky for younger ones to come to a new teacher and a new environment and a new hall, but they have done really well and we've had a few people who are the only person from their particular dance class that have come along but everyone has gelled together really well and has become great friends.”

The plan is for next year to start developing workshops and then to work towards another big production this time next year. Tickets from the venue.