VIDEO: A tale as old as time in Shandon

More than 250 pupils take to the stage of the Firkin Crane this weekend for the 10th anniversary of Cork School of Dance’s Christmas production, writes COLETTE SHERIDAN
VIDEO: A tale as old as time in Shandon
Students from Cork School of Dance get ready for their performance of Beauty and the Beast.

A STAGGERING 250 pupils from the Cork School of Dance will perform on the stage of the Firkin Crane, in Shandon, in an ambitious production of Beauty And The Beast: The Teapot’s Tale, which opens Friday December 8 and runs until Sunday December 9.

The dancers, who range in age from three to 19, have been rehearsing since early November.

There are 300 pupils in the Cork School of Dance, founded by choreographer and dance teacher, Sinead Murphy. Because some of them have exam and Leaving Certificate commitments, they are not taking part in the festive show. But everyone else gets to appear on stage.

“It’s a huge number,” says Sinead. “The cast has to be costumed twice and three times so it’s a big undertaking.”

A former pupil of Joan Denise Moriarty, Sinead says performing the show through dance and mime is challenging.

“It’s such a Disney classic and with the modern remake a few years back, it’s one of those films that everybody knows. It’s such a difficult show to transfer from animation to dance and to do the whole thing without text and without a script. We dance the whole show.

“With no dialogue, there’s a music soundtrack that I’ve put together. Obviously, we have music from the film itself. And to keep it all modern, we have songs by Coldplay and Kodaline and some Christmas favourites.”

The Cork School of Dance pupis at rehearsals for the production of Beauty and the Beast. Pic: Gavin Browne
The Cork School of Dance pupis at rehearsals for the production of Beauty and the Beast. Pic: Gavin Browne

Sinead says it’s difficult to give every child a part in the show.

“It takes a lot of planning and it’s important to stay true to the story. The tiny tots are only on stage once for about five minutes. Every other child is on stage at least twice.”

Beauty And The Beast tells the tale of a handsome young prince and his servants who fall under the spell of a wicked enchantress. She turns the prince into a beast — until he learns to love and be loved again.

The role of the beast will be danced by Oscar Humphreys with Eve Waterstone as Belle. Mrs Potts will be danced by Ella Burke. The performers will dance as knives, forks, napkins and feather dusters as well as snowflakes, Christmas fairies and scary wolves and bats.

Sinead, who is also the artistic director of Cork Youth Ballet, is proud of having recently received a Cork Business Award for services to the arts and entertainment industry.

Beauty And The Beast is her company’s tenth Christmas show.

“I started the school in 2009 and we’ve done a Christmas show every year since. We do an end-of-year show as well. In the interim period, we do corporate and charity events. We also have an association with Cork City Ballet. So we had 32 children taking part in that company’s recent production of The Nutcracker. It has been a very busy time for those children. We also have some children in Aladdin (the Cork Opera House pantomime).”

Sinead Murphy of the Cork School of Dance at rehearsals for the production of Beauty and the Beast at the Firkin Crane. The Cork School of Dance are putting on their 10th anniversary show. Pic: Gavin Browne
Sinead Murphy of the Cork School of Dance at rehearsals for the production of Beauty and the Beast at the Firkin Crane. The Cork School of Dance are putting on their 10th anniversary show. Pic: Gavin Browne

There are just four boys in the Beauty And The Beast production.

“They are seniors which is great. Hopefully, we’ll have more boys joining the Cork School of Dance in January. A lot of boys don’t see dance as very masculine. But having said that, dance is one of the most athletic hobbies boys can have. Our four boys are incredibly fit and healthy. They are a great advert for dance as a sport as well as an art form. They have to do lots of lifting the girls. You couldn’t do it if you were a weakling. One or two of my dance colleagues across the world actually teach ballet and dance to rugby teams as it is good for balance and co-ordination.”

Sinead, who doesn’t have children of her own, is hugely enthusiastic about working with youngsters. She started ballet classes at just six years of age with Joan Denise Moriarty, in her studio on Emmet Place. She went on to teach at Joan Denise’s school.

The famous ballet mistress died in 1992. Sinead continued teaching in the school until 2009 when she felt the time was right to open her own school. While Joan Denise demanded discipline, that wasn’t a problem for Sinead as she was brought up to work hard. She also expects her pupils to be disciplined.

“I always say to parents that if discipline is all they take out of their time at the school, they will have taken so much for life. It’s also important that children are well mannered and respectful towards each other and towards the staff at the school.”

Establishing a career in dance is difficult. “It’s s precarious life,” says Sinead.

One of the success stories of her school is Molly Ward who is in the Everyman pantomime and appears on TV in the John Lewis advertisement.

Molly left the Cork School of Dance in 2013 and went on to graduate from Bird College in the UK.

“Dancing is a difficult life,” says Sinead. But even if pupils don’t have careers as dancers, they will learn important lessons in life.

Tickets €17, or for a family ticket (four people) costs €64. See https://www.firkincrane.ie/events/beauty-beast-copy/ for more

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