Spanish contemporary dance company Aracaladanza specialises in shows for the young. The company invites you “to dream little sips of happiness with which we hope you enjoy fleeting moments of joy”.

More than sips at today’s performance of Clouds at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. I went with Eric and Ray (7): I didn’t tell them much about what the show would be, mainly because I myself wasn’t sure, but I did ask them what they thought we might see. Eric wanted to see if the lighting would be “so hot that it blows the clouds away”. Ray was expecting clouds made of “wool. They’ll probably come down from a hole in the ceiling.”

Aracaladanza's <i>Clouds</i> © Eduardo García González
Aracaladanza's Clouds
© Eduardo García González

In the event, all manner of clouds were created. There were indeed some white woolly clouds, which sprouted legs and turned into sheep, but also paper clouds with human legs, balloon clouds in tulle nets which were whirled or worn like oversized modern tutus and (don’t try this at home) a huge zorb-like transparent polythene cloud. The clouds blow in with them a cast of six dancers, who are equally good solo or in combination, with the coordination particularly spectacular in the ‘dancing shadow’ sequence. There are giant apples, bowler hats, giant suited figures, miniature houses and shadows of all sizes.

Just as the clouds were fantastically varied, so was the music. A recorded soundtrack defied my expectation of overwhelmingly nebulous ambient sounds. Some of the music is pre-existing, including Simon Jeffes’s Perpetuum mobile, some specially created, and the show includes numbers ranging from boisterous minimalism through Latin and Swing to what was my favourite scene – a Baroque movement masterfully choreographed with the whole cast wearing flippers.

<i>Clouds</i> © Eduardo García González
Clouds
© Eduardo García González

Eric and Ray belong to a dance group but aren’t used to watching dance and have never been to a ballet: the closest thing they had seen to this – and it’s entirely different – was probably Stomp. A few scenes in, Ray asked me “Is this going to involve any talking?” but when I told him no, was quite happy. Eric’s favourite scene was the polythene sea/cloudscape. Ray like the shadow work and especially the enormous shadow hand. The show is very well paced, with scenes the right length to hold the interest for a young audience. Multiple changes of costume, backdrop and weathers easily keep the attention.

Opening doors: Aracaladanza's <i>Clouds</i> © Eduardo García González
Opening doors: Aracaladanza's Clouds
© Eduardo García González

There were several points in the spectacular when we couldn’t tell how the effect was achieved. There was a costume change, which Eric insisted was done by magic, and a section where somehow the hands on display were more than twice the number of people. We had some discussion afterwards of the scene where identical doors were run in and out of. “They were vanishing from the doors.” “They were not vanishing – they went through the back.” “No, ‘cos then we’d have seen their shadows!” Anything coming from the ceiling was reserved for the closing scenes, with characters climbing ladders to try to reach what we’d previously seen, and the houses returning at the end to bring it to a close.

Clouds is advertised as being for everyone aged 4 and upwards.  Fans of In the Night Garden will love it; the genius of this show is that fans of Magritte and Pina Bausch will love it too.