Video: Head east for alternative Christmas show

HAD enough of the snow and gloomy weather? Then why not lose yourself among the lily pads and golden meadows of The Japanese Garden; all in the warmth and comfort of DanceEast.

TPO, based in Prato, Italy, at Teatro Fabbrichino, return to Jerwood DanceHouse with its alternative Christmas family show from December 13-19.

It’s a sensory theatrical and participatory performance for all ages, combining digital animation, video illusions and synchronised sound to create virtual images with stories.

At first glance the performance area seems like a big white carpet. Underneath it, though, are 32 sensors that produce different sounds and images when the dancers and audience move on it.

The result is gardens and lawns sprouting out of nowhere and all sorts of flowers and fish looking to play hide and seek.

You can hop on lily pads, rollick through the golden meadow, peel through the petals of giant flowers and show off your fancy foot work to make a tune on the singing bridge.

As the performance begins, a member of the company tells a story about how the garden was born. The audience sits around the carpet and a dancer starts to animate areas of the surface corresponding to the five gardens in the original story.

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Children are then invited to explore and animate the gardens themselves, experiencing the reconstructed natural environment through their own senses. This show’s running time - 50 minutes - and interactivity make it ideal for youngsters who can’t sit still.

TPO began to develop the interactive Children Cheering Carpet system six years ago. By using digital images and sensory devices as a means of interacting the show is never the same twice.

Working as a company in residence at Teatro Metastasio Stabile della Toscana, the group’s performances redefine the concept of children’s entertainment as immersive theatre; an environment where the thin line between art and play can be explored without the barriers of language and cultural differences getting in the way.

Regarded internationally as one of Europe’s most interesting children’s theatre companies, their most recent works include Butterflies, which went down a storm at DanceEast last year.

Assis Carreiro, DanceEast’s artistic director and chief executive, said: “We’re delighted Italy’s TPO are returning to us this Christmas with The Japanese Garden. The show is a treat for young children. There will be foyer fun before and after the shows, Christmas treats in the caf� and a chance to meet Father Christmas as well at the DanceHouse.”

The foyer fun includes helping decorating their massive Christmas tree.

Staff have been learning the Japanese art of origami, folding paper into snowflakes, Father Christmases and little birds to hang up and are inviting you to do the same. A table with instructions and materials will be set up in the foyer from next week.

The Wednesday and Thursday performances of The Japanese Garden are sold out. There are still some tickets for the Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday available.

We have a family ticket - for a party of four which must include at least one adult and two children - worth �20 to give away. Just tell us: Where are TPO from? E-mail your answer to info@danceeast.co.uk by 5pm this Friday.