Interview:  Antonio Castilla 

Chloe Keneally as Odette in My First Ballet Swan Lake © Laurent Liotardo

The English National Ballet and English National Ballet School present a new version of Swan Lake, telling the tale of Odile, rather than Odette. This new narrative engages with the important themes of friendship, forgiveness and honesty as part of the ENB’s My First Ballet series. Created to engage young audiences, the series is designed to delight and engage children as young as three. Tamara Rojo, the Artistic Director of ENB says “the narrative, choreography and music are condensed, but the ballet itself is not compromised”. Adapted to an hour in length, with a narrator to help guide audiences through Odile’s journey, this production of Swan Lake is the perfect way to introduce the inspiring and fascinating power of ballet. My First Ballet series is performed by the students of ENB School and this performance features dramaturgy by Lou Cope and choreography by Antonio Castilla, who tell us all about the process of creation of Swan Lake for little ones…

Can you tell us about the My First Ballet series? 


English National Ballet and English National Ballet School’s My First Ballet series takes popular ballets and adapts them especially for young audiences. This year we have created a new version of the well-known classical ballet, Swan Lake. 

Can you tell us about your choreography background? 


I started choreographing in San Francisco for a small professional company and also San Francisco Ballet School. Then, when I moved to London I created pieces for Ballet Central and later the Royal Ballet School. 

What do you enjoy about choreographing? 


I enjoy the process of creation. It is a voyage that starts in the studio and continues all the way to the stage. The aim is to be really committed to the trip and hope that audiences will get on board. 

What made you want to choreograph this new version of My First Ballet: Swan Lake?


It’s the first year I’ve choreographed a ballet for the series and I’m thrilled to be involved. Swan Lake is one of my favourite ballets and the opportunity to work with English National Ballet School and a great artistic team to recreate it for children was an opportunity I welcomed.  

"Children are truly honest which means they can be one of the toughest audiences!"

What is it like creating a ballet that’s especially for younger audiences?


Can you tell us about what you have to keep in mind during the creative process? Children are truly honest which means they can be one of the toughest audiences! For me this means I also want to be truly honest - with both the story and the choreography. It’s a challenge but also very rewarding. 

Can you tell us a bit about this new version of My First Ballet: Swan Lake specifically?


What have been your priorities when you have been developing this version?   In this new version of My First Ballet: Swan Lake, we have put the focus on Odile, rather than Odette, with the narrative following her journey and the difficult decision she must make, allowing us to explore important themes of friendship, forgiveness and honesty.


What do the English National Ballet School students gain from performing in My First Ballet?


The English National Ballet School students get to experience working at a professional level. Through choreography and direction, we are giving them the opportunity to embrace the work and grow as dancers and performers. 

What are your personal highlights of working on My First Ballet?


I really enjoy helping students develop their talents, that is very special. I’ve also really valued the experience of working with both a dramaturg and a narrator. Our dramaturg works with me as I choreograph to help give a narrative to the ballet. During the show, a narrator will be on stage guiding the audience through the story. I’m very much looking forward to taking My First Ballet: Swan Lake on tour and to audiences around the country. For me, brilliant dancing, beautiful costumes, and of course Tchaikovsky’s wonderful music mean that this production is the perfect introduction to ballet and the joy it can bring!



My First Ballet: Swan Lake opens at The Peacock, London on 29 March 2018 before embarking on a national tour to Churchill Theatre, Bromley (14 & 15 April), New Theatre, Oxford (21 & 22 April), Manchester Opera House (28 & 29 April), The Grand Theatre, Blackpool (05 & 06 May), New Victoria Theatre, Woking (12 & 13 May) and Princess Theatre, Torquay (19 & 20 May). 

On the Beat 2018   |    Online Culture Magazine    |