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Ballet stars shine on Neptune ward visit

17 August 2015

Health Care

They say laughter is the best medicine, so when dancers from the English Youth Ballet leapt into the children’s ward of Southend Hospital to give poorly children and their families an insight into all things ballet, it really lit up the ward.

As well as an exciting preview of their comic ballet, Coppelia, coming to the Cliffs Pavilion, the English Youth Ballet has a policy of encouraging and promoting young British dancers, and giving young children the opportunity to experience it who might otherwise not get the chance.

Lisa Kawa-Akenbo, senior healthcare play specialist, said: "The workshop was a fantastic distraction for our patients; being in hospital can be a very stressful and frightening experience for children and young people.  It allowed them to forget that they are in hospital and have an enjoyable, fun time.

"We also invited some of our regular, long-term patients as for those children people and families who spend much of their time in hospital it was great to be visiting us for the workshop rather than coming for treatment."

The visit saw the company ballerina explain what a day in the life of a dancer is all about. The dancers then showed the children the 'barre' work that they do every day, including showcasing costumes and pointe shoes for everyone to see, followed by an excerpt from the ballet Coppelia's Grand Pas de Deux. This was followed by a question and answer session, with the dancers going round the ward to see children who may not have been able to see the workshop.

Scott Butterworth, from the English Youth Ballet, said: "The children find it educational and interesting. They are fascinated by the costumes that are presented, and even more so when they have the chance to see a pointe shoe close up. It gives them hopefully a break from their routine, and you can see in their faces the way they can be transported to another world when they watch the dancers performing an extract form one of the big classical ballets, such as Coppelia."

The dancers found it personally very rewarding from the eager and often excited reaction of the children, parents and staff to the workshop. They also enjoyed showing everyone what a day in the life of a dancer is all about. On the Friday evening of the performance the company will be raising funds for the ward by collections at the Cliffs Pavilion.

Scott added: "If we can help the children in Southend Hospital by raising funds for their ward in the theatre, then why not? Children in the production love collecting money through our 'bucket' appeal in the theatre, and the appearance of the Neptune ward staff on stage at the end of the evening only adds to the excitement. Everyone has a great time and everyone benefits."

Coppelia takes place at The Cliffs Pavilion on Friday 21 - Saturday 22 August, with a 7.30pm performance on both the Friday and Saturday evening and a 2.30pm matinee performance on the Saturday. Call 01702 351135 to book tickets.