The joy of storytelling through the ages will unfold when local talent takes to the stage at Norwich Theatre Royal on Sunday, July 9.
Heather Millan’s city-based School of Dance and Performing Arts will show audiences how the telling of fairy tales has changed since the days of Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers and early performances in Victorian times, to modern re-tellings of tales like James and the Giant Peach and Beauty and the Beast.
Over 260 of the school’s students, aged from three up to 83, will take part in the bi-annual summer show with two performances on July 9 at 2.30pm and 7pm.
Sarah Millan, who runs the school with her mother and founder Heather Millan, and her daughter Georgia, said: “I love anything to do with old stories and having had four children I have seen how storytelling has changed. In the show, we start off with how children enjoyed story books 180 years ago, and we’re very excited because we will be using an original Hans Christian Andersen gauze which was used at the London Palladium in a show starring Tommy Steele in 1974, courtesy of Scenic Projects in Lowestoft.
“Then we come forward in time and finish with a modern gothic version of Beauty and the Beast. It’s going to be a magical experience. It’s a trail through the years of all the different stories and we do finish with a little bit of a tear-jerker.”
Audiences will be able to see how very traditional Princess costumes in soft colours, such as sage and lavender from Victorian shows like Twelve Dancing Princesses, changed to much stronger hues in more recent times, and also how the pace of story-telling has got much quicker.
Heather Millan has been teaching dance and performing arts for over four decades in Norwich and has now been joined by her daughter and grand-daughter in the family business at their Cowgate studios. They teach ballet, tap, modern dance, singing, drama, acrobatics and commercial dance.
“Most children attend three to four hours a week and ballet is compulsory to teach them structure, posture, strength and agility. They do exams, but we are not a highly pressurised school,” Sarah said. “It is very much for enjoyment.”
Many former students come back to take part in the summer show, including those who have gone on to dance professionally. This year, dancer Alice Ross, who joined the school as a tiny tot and went on to attend the Urdang Academy before turning professional, has returned to play the part of Belle, while the Beast is played by Callum Murphy who takes part in the adults commercial dance class.
“We are like a big family,” Sarah said. “No-one ever leaves completely and coming back for the summer show is like going home for Christmas. We have such wonderful support from our helpers, teachers and parents. With a show this size, we couldn’t do it without that fantastic support network and we really appreciate it.”
Once Upon A Fairy Tale is here on July 9 and tickets are available now.