Wednesday, April 4, 2012: 40 Pages of Fun

Opus Osm booklet

The little booklet explains ballet and the story while providing entertaining activities for kids.

Forty Little Pages of Fun

It’s cute, clever, well-designed, packed with information, and it fits into your palm.

It’s a notebook but, no, it’s not the latest techno-gadget.

It’s a little 12cm square (4-3/4”) black-and-white paper booklet that doesn’t require batteries, a sim card, or a chip. It’s the smartest, cleverest device we’ve seen for explaining the ballet and the Sleeping Beauty storyline to children. Not to mention their parents.

The National Theatre Ballet’s 40-page “Baletní Notes” notebook guide to Šípková Růženka, as the story is known in Czech, features fun things on the left-hand pages: Explanations of the story (with questions to answer), a crossword puzzle, maze, tiny board game, even black-and-white costume sketches for coloring at home later. Although all in Czech, there’s enough interesting, fun, and useful information in the pictures and costume sketches to intrigue speakers of any language.

Opus Osm inside booklet

(Left) Four main gestures by four main dancers. (Right) A flip page.

The right-hand pages – and here’s the really cool thing – is actually a child-sized flip book: you fan the pages with your right hand and watch dancer Michaela Černá (the Queen in the ballet) perform a ballet gesture (hand signal) in 20 progressive photos.

(Lefties can use it, too, but backwards.)

And in case your children (… or you …) didn’t know that ballet has more traditional gestures to help mime a story, you can also find four photos of the principle dancers showing the signs for love, death, sleep, and the arrival of the King. The full-color back cover of “Baletní Notes” also shows Nikola Márová, the excellent Fairy of Fear, vengefully miming “You forgot me!” in the invitation to the christening.

As public relations director Helena Barlová tells Opus Osm, although the Ballet has previously produced program notes specifically for children (The Nutcracker-A Christmas Story; Goldilocks), this is the first-ever National Theatre Ballet flip book. It can be purchased at the performances this weekend, Apr 6 and 8, for a mere 25 kč. The author is Kateřina Hanáčková, and she and the Ballet deserve a standing ovation. The flip book is one gentle way that ballet can take back some of its rightful power, and we hope to see much more of this in the future. — oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Mary Matz

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