Delightful dancers win young hearts

28 September 2022

A new ballet commissioned by Awesome Festival is a wonderful introduction to the artform for young audiences, writes junior writer Bethany Stopher.

The Lost Little Llama, WAAPA Dance for Awesome Festival ·
James Street Amphitheatre, Perth Cultural Centre, 27 September 2022 · 

Toddlers are lined up on the steps of the James Street Amphitheatre, waiting eagerly to be introduced to some furry friends from the performance of The Lost Little Llama. Performed by WA Academy of Performing Arts students and written and choreographed by WAAPA lecturer Andries Weidemann, this ballet is fun-filled, charming, and perfect for engaging an audience new to the artform.

Ballet can often be very hard to follow as a young child; predominantly depicted through movement, the story can require some inference and personal interpretations. This show features a narrator (Ekaterini Alfred) to explain in simple terms what the characters are doing. With a recording of Alfred’s pleasantly Australian lilt portraying the bush animals, we follow the Llama and companion Kookaburra through their journey.

The student cast are fresh-faced and sprightly. Despite their youth, they are impressively professional. They manage to captivate the younger audience, even with a small cast and simple stage design.

I especially love Ruby Brazzalotto, who plays the Llama. She embodies the confused farm animal out of her element in the bush, with an alert head and an expressive face in a constant state of bewilderment. Her movement presents some pleasing lines, and all sequences are neatly executed. Annika Torretti, who plays the boisterous Kookaburra, displays a lively allegro and has some lovely extensions.

SEE more of what we saw at the Awesome Festival

They are aided by Weidemann’s choreography, which successfully combines classical ballet with more “cutesy” actions to make the show accessible to children. The choreography showcases the talent of the young dancers but keeps it at a level that it may seem attainable to aspiring ballerinas in the audience, starry-eyed, thinking, “Maybe I could do that!”

Weidemann taps into comedic energy for the story. Whether the Llama is leaping away from tick eggs, or tangoing with a sinister fox, there is always a hint of the hilarious in the narrative and the language of dance.

The costume design by WAAPA design graduate Maeli Cheri is minimalistic but seems appropriate for this very Australian production which captures the national culture of casualness. With a limited budget, the few accessories used are effective for their purpose. The Llama is decked out in an adorable fluffy head, with matching leg warmers over her pointe shoes, the Kookaburra flaunts a beautiful, feathered head piece and Mrs Tick (Ekaterini Alfred) encourages laughter in a hideously striped lumpy body suit – how she dances in that, goodness knows!

The original music is composed by Dr Emma Jayakumar from Edith Cowan University and recorded for the show by Perth Symphony Orchestra.

The show has an interactive element; the dancers respond readily to the young children. Balloons are thrown into the audience, and a few unlucky viewers are splashed with water by the crocodile. After the performance, there is a quick workshop for the children to try their hand at simplified versions of some of the dance moves they have just seen.

This performance brings ballet into an authentically Australian setting, both in the narrative and on our city streets. It is an ideal introductory ballet for the young and those young at heart. It’s delightfully quirky, an interactive experience and it’s free!

The Lost Little Llama continues daily at 10am and 11.30am until 1 October 2022

Pictured top: Annika Torretti (Kookaburra) and Ruby Brazzalotto (Llama) in ‘The Lost Little Llama’. Photo by Kathy Wheatley

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Bethany Stopher has long brown hair over her shoulders and is smiling at the camera

Author —
Bethany Stopher

Young writer Bethany Stopher is a high school student who has a passion for ballet and creative writing. She is drawn to shiny things, pretty words, and big hugs. Her favourite piece of playground equipment is the swings because it feels like flying.

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