Here’s the brief; take one of the world’s most famous ballet companies, arguably the greatest classical ballet of all time, reduce it from three hours to one, take it on tour around the country and perform it to an audience primarily made up of three-10-year-olds.

These were George Williamson’s instructions on joining the English National Ballet a few months ago, and My First Cinderella will be his first major piece of choreography to date.

Anyone with children will be delighted with the concept, a sure sign the ENB is finally climbing down from its pedestal to embrace a new, younger audience.

But as George is only 22, he took a while to come round to the idea: “I was worried we would have to dumb it down and the dress rehearsals were quite dry so we didn’t know if it was going to work. But once on stage the audiences went crazy and it’s gone down really well,” he says.

Delighted with the response, the dancers themselves have been similarly converted: “The ENB ballerinas are exercising some of their most challenging roles yet, to a crowd of their biggest fans, and their most star-struck audience, so they are really enjoying it as well.

“Getting them on board was of prime importance of course, but because the dancers are still working in a professional environment with proper choreography and challenging steps, it’s been really interesting. We all feel that we’ve kept our integrity without being judgmental,” he says.

Despite shortening the score to 60 minutes, George has also managed to maintain the elements of a classical ballet, while allowing the audience to interact through the narrator, breaking it down just enough to maintain the children’s attention.

In fact, once George began the arduous cutting process, he says it was quite straightforward: “Cinderella has several solos but she doesn’t need five, and we don’t need five courtroom dances, so we just cut the fat in a positive way.

“Besides, some ballets are too long anyway, and if someone in the business can’t sit through them, how can a small child? Plus our culture has changed. When these ballets were written there wasn’t much else to do but now children’s attention spans are much shorter because there is so much going on,” he explains.

A big deal then? “Yes it was a big responsibility, I didnt want to get it wrong because it’s a fine line between being too panto, that’s not what ballet is about, but neither did I want the children to be oblivious.”

George enjoyed the process so much he’s now teeming with ideas of how to extend the concept to a teen market.

“I’m passionate about growing new audiences and about ways to bring ballet out of its comfort zone. It’s quite scary because in 20 years’ time we don’t know if we’ll still have an audience at all or if it will fade away.

“So I’m proud that My First Cinderella has worked and that we are reconnecting with the audience. I’ve loved doing it.”

George’s only regret is not seeing more ballet when he was growing up: “I didn’t know what ballet was even though I learned it from the age of four, because you don’t get it until you’ve seen it for real in the theatre.

“So, seeing the audience gasping at the lifts and improvising their own steps in the interval or dancing up the street afterwards has been amazing to see,” he says.

A convert then?

“I’ve loved it even though it’s been a big learning curve and an entirely new concept given to me from scratch.

“But then its always been about the choreography for me, that’s what I love to do and the ENB gave me full rein to do what I needed.”

My First Cinderella
New Theatre, Oxford
May 4–5
Tickets: 0844 8713020