Sleeping Beauty: A Hundred Years Of Enchantment

Centre Stage School of Dance & Performing Arts Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre For The Arts, Poole 

Anne Waggott 25 May 2024

Is it really two years since I had the absolute pleasure of reviewing Peter Pan: Adventure To Neverland? My word, how time flies! And yet the joyous memories I have of that magical adventure ride are as fresh in my mind today as if it were just last week. When asked to arrange a reviewer for this year’s production by Centre Stage School of Dance & Performing Arts, I was thrilled to learn that they have become an award-winning School and to be updated about the exciting progression of some of their alumni, and I had been greatly looking forward to seeing this year’s production.

However, whilst jumping at the chance to review Centre Stage once again, I did wonder if this year’s cohort would be able to live up to the school’s previous high standards and my wonderful memories. I need not have had any concerns… they absolutely did! Whilst the majority of the audience must have comprised of family and friends of the students, this was a production that deserved to be seen and enjoyed by full houses of every combination. I’m delighted that the students were able to enjoy such a very warm reception from a packed auditorium; they deserved it!

Once again, Artistic Director Miss Zoë Mather and her superb creative team have combined their collective skills and expertise to produce an enchanting version of this well-known and much-loved fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty. There were a few tweaks to the story itself, but these made it all the more enjoyable, and the strength of storytelling was evident throughout through singing, drama and predominantly dance.

The scintillating choreography and music choices were perfectly devised and chosen to suit the numerous scenes and characters. With an age range of 2 to 17 years old, it’s inevitable that some students were more accomplished than others, but the choreography enabled each student to perform to the best of their current abilities. I loved the different styles that were incorporated into the show, whether graceful and elegant ballet, tumbling acrobatics, contemporary, or street dance, but I confess that my favourite numbers of all were from The Bollywood Dancers – just exquisite! – and Dungeon Dragons, whilst the signing during ‘What A Wonderful World’ melted my heart even more.

With a cast of 350 students, it’s virtually impossible to pick out and name individual performances, although it’s inevitable some would particularly catch my eye more than others, whether in their credited principal roles or slipping into the ensemble numbers: in order of programme listings, Francesca Vincent (Princess Briar Rose), Darcey Sheate (Little Princess Briar Rose), Lacey-Maye Notley (Fairy God Mother Merriweather), Isabella James (Maleficent) and Georgina Loew (Queen Leah), take a bow! In addition, there were others within the ensemble who I might not have been able to link with the names in the programme (as with Peter Pan: Adventure To Neverland), but who will absolutely step into principal roles in two years’ time when the School’s next bi-annual show is staged!

Cute little christening presents, adorable forest animals, loveable little bunnies, fluttering butterflies, busy bees, murderous crows, howling wolves, quirky centipedes, street dancing Zombies (yes, really!), magical mice, and so many more… all were beautifully brought to life with wonderful little touches that were endearing and a joy to watch.

Enhancing the amazing aesthetics of the production were an astonishing array of stunning costumes, brilliantly designed and themed projected backdrops for each scene, atmospheric lighting, well-timed pyrotechnics and a brilliant choice of soundtrack.

It is clear that Miss Zoë’s passion and commitment for providing top notch quality training has been shared and embraced by all the staff, rubbing off on the students in the best possible way as they took to the stage with great energy, focus, commitment and joie de vivre. It’s similarly very clear that the students have not only learnt and developed superb performance skills, but they have also embraced the numerous life skills that they can carry forward into the world beyond the stage: teamwork, empathy, discipline, dedication, diligence and resilience. Any slight misstep was brushed aside with a winning smile as they picked up their place with determination and panache, working together to produce a fabulous show.

However, what touched me most (as it did two years ago) was the way the more senior students showed such empathy and care towards the younger members of their group, encouraging them if their stamina and concentration seemed to drop towards the end of a long show or supporting them if they became overwhelmed by the rapturous applause through the final curtain calls. As the smiles radiated from everyone on stage, it was obvious that each student was exactly where they wanted to be – and there could have been few in the audience who didn’t share their enthusiasm as a result!

Congratulations to all involved – and encore! I cannot wait to see what heights Centre Stage School of Dance & Performing Arts will reach next!