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Cincinnati Ballet - 'Cinderella'

Dreams can come true

by S.E. Arnold

February 11-13, 2005 -- Proctor & Gamble Hall, Aronoff Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

Inspiring! And as direct as Prokofiev’s music, it was Victoria Morgan’s thoughtful choreography harmonized with the Cincinnati Ballet production of Cinderella into a hosanna of hope.

In her pre-curtain talks, Morgan detailed the influences manifest in her "Cinderella." She looked, for example, at dozens of balletic and other theatrical productions of "Cinderella," including Disney’s film. More importantly, however, her experience dancing the ballet’s title role with Ballet West and the San Francisco Ballet and her two previous choreographic treatments of the subject, including the 2000 production for the Cincinnati Ballet put the music and its theatrical possibilities in her DNA. Additionally, the steady rise in the excellence of the Cincinnati Ballet and her growth as a choreographer motivated her to take a ‘have no mercy’ attitude toward editing and refining the 2000 version. And, save for her practice of using the music both as a source of narrative and movement, Morgan’s 2005 "Cinderella" is essentially a new, finely woven, and fast paced work that is a challenge to dance and a thrill to watch.

“Dreams can come true,” said Morgan, smiling at her audience. Who could doubt her? Certainly principal Kristi Capps and soloist Janessa Touchet, who each by their effort and courage rose from the corps and who each in two evening and matinee performances received standing ovations for their heartwarming interpretations of the title role, would not. In this sense, dreaming equates with doing; that is with an attitude that imagines possibilities and their achievement rather than passive wishing. And, it was in this aspect of Morgan’s ballet, Cinderella’s bright attitude, that one felt hope’s hosanna.

Because the ballet is in her name and she is on stage for most of its three acts, one understands Cinderella to be teller of this tale. The flow, for example, of her pas de deux with the Prince in Act II spoke with a focused rapture of someone in love. Additionally, the contrasts between the decorum of the ballet’s 18th century costuming and the cavernous, vaguely Piranesian aspect of Peter Farmer’s design for Cinderella’s home, the anachronistic hat that Cinderella uses to turn her broom into a dance partner, and the Renaissance clad Joker in an Enlightenment Court, suggested a narrator that mixed memory with fantasy. And, in spite of her nightmarish environment, Cinderella related to her buffoonish stepsisters (roles played by men after Ashton’s "Cinderella") and stepmother with a stoic resign marbled with empathy. In contrast to that one-way relationship, however, Cinderella and her father were like the massive posts and beams of their dwelling, mutually supportive even in the face of bodily harm.

Granting that the ballet was Cinderella speaking for herself, it was reasonable then to think of the benevolent Fairy Godmother and her entourage, the Fairies of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, as a projection of Cinderella’s attitude. The identification of the Fairies with seasons, for example, and their structural importance in the ballet (for they dance in every act) showed Cinderella’s constancy. Moreover, the neo-classicism of their 18th century costumes brought to mind a line from an opera by Benjamin Britten that neatly sums up the command Cinderella’s hopeful attitude has on the rest of her life. “Mine is the power,” Apollo told von Aschenbach, “that binds his [read: her] days.”

A positive out look on life in fact binds Cinderella’s days and that attitude opens her life to possibilities; and so it is no surprise that her story offers more than 50 student dancers the opportunity to perform with her. The youngest were various Holders, Carriers, and Pages, while the oldest were Assistants to the Fairy Godmother. Twelve costumed in purple, however, were the shadow, not of evil, but of the limitation of any possibility; they were the numbers on the Fairy Godmother’s clock. And at midnight’s dramatic sounding, the Ball Room darkened and the Fairies and Clock numbers mixed with the guests visualizing Cinderella’s heightened sense of moment. Time pervaded all; guests either became clockwork mechanicals or expressed the moment’s emotive burden with sweeping arms and bending bodies.

Cinderella ended her story with a return to the same sunny glade transformed from the massive Parnassian structure of her household by the Fairy Godmother in Act I. And following a dance for the Fairies, the Prince and Cinderella return, she already lifted into a dramatic but simple pose (which prompted an awestruck gasp from the audience at every performance) passed through an Honor Guard of Fairies across the stage and into a waiting carriage. More than a wedding celebration, it was an apotheosis of hope and – with pun intended – a fitting end. Whatever the reality of her marriage to the Prince, her saint-like forgiveness of her tormenters was genuine and continuous with the generosity of her bright attitude. And it is, one thinks, the possibilities and courage spawned by her attitude that Cinderella will make her dreams come true.

Edited by Staff.

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