The Little Match Girl – Dance City

Baby it’s cold out there

The super talented Arthur Pita has created an exquisite and original delight of dance and music and song, in his version of Hans Christian Anderson’s, The Little Match Girl, playing at Dance City this December.
The original story, as many of the old fairy tales are, is a stark portrait of the plight of the poor and the complacency and cruelty of the rich, in a world where no one cares for those without family or money.
Colder than the winter weather

Arthur’s version, has a rather wacky uplifting ending which puts a magical twist on this heartbreaking story. Anticipating an emotional journey, I had to ask the steward on the door as we went in ‘Can I just ask? Does she die at the end?’ ‘Do you really want me to tell you she said?’ I nodded ‘She does – but then she goes to the moon.’ That’s OK then.

The moon sees everything

Every element of this production combines to make a very special piece of dance theatre. The costumes evoke the Dickensian era of a Christmas Carol and the pale Gothic make up is slightly sinister and surreal. The set is simple, stark and effective with a single street lamp and the huge illuminated moon looking down on the small rows of houses with their lighted windows. The wind howls and the snow falls and the darkness is pierced by the points of light from the lamp, the matches and the huge silver disc in the sky.

The friendly lamp lighter

The original music performed by the multi talented Yann Seabra is ingenious. It opens with the plaintive tinkle of a musical box and then covers a lyrical journey through Eastern European folk music, Spanish guitar, a whole range of great percussion, some formidable whistling, and my personal favourite the Hawaiian guitar which slides us off to the surface of the moon.

Moon walking – Wow!

Corey Annand is perfect in the title role. We feel for her vulnerable elfin character, a pathetic victim of her harsh environment.

Magical match girl Corey Annand

The whole thing is in Italian, for which I have no explanation, but the foreignness of the language adds oddly to the magical otherness of the story we are watching.

No pity here

The other three members of the cast play all the other characters including the pantomime baddies of the rich family who shun the The Little Match Girl and refuse her warmth and shelter. The scene where the rich girl physically abuses  her, striking her, stamping on her, bending back her fingers and even horribly scratching her arm to the screech of a violin, is quite excruciating and the sense of injustice is almost overwhelming.
The girl is intimidated and robbed by some other match sellers brandishing their fans of matches like Edward Scissor hands, they take her shoes and she gets colder and colder.

Match challenge

Seeking succour at the graveside of her Grandma, Nonna Luna, she strikes her very last match, the cold finally overwhelms her, and she dies.
Her opera singing grandma rises from the grave and takes her up the glittery, silver ladder to live on the friendly face of the moon.

Lighting up the stage

The Little Match Girl’s spirit lives on here, she dances with a random space man who lands in his spaceship and meets her. ‘Wow!’ he says. He leaves again and she lives on using her matches to light up the sky with stars.
It is all a bit mad but in an entirely convincing way. You are drawn into the world of the Little Match Girl, her plight and her journey through a cruel and unforgiving world. I absolutely adored this show, another first class piece of programming from Dance City which, with its largest contemporary dance programme outside of London,  is rapidly turning into a national flagship for this incredible creative medium.
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Elaine Wilson has been writing blogs on travel, events and accommodation for over six years and is a digital content expert.