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Scottish Ballet - 'Cinderella'

by Ana Abad-Carles

March 14, 2006 -- Sadler's Wells, London

Scottish Ballet presented their new production of “Cinderella” on Tuesday, 14 March as part of their visit at Sadler’s Wells. The company will present a triple bill later on that they will be taking to Edinburgh and Glasgow as part of their spring tour.

This new production of “Cinderella”, choreographed by Scottish Ballet’s director, Ashley Page, had its premiere in December, 2005. In a way, it is a reworking of the classic, though not as radical as Maguy Marin or even Rudolf Nuereyev’s retellings of the fairy tale. This has allowed Page to provide his company with a Christmas classic other than the “Nutcracker”, which is always a good idea. On the other hand, one could wish that when new choreography for an existing work is done, something different is added to the existing text.

The scenery and costumes for the production were interesting and colourful. There were some changes to the story that Page has introduced and yet the choreographic reading and patterns have not undergone drastic changes. Page has kept the Ashton reading of the score and fit within it his own choreographic style. At its best, it provided very musical choreography; at its worst it eluded real choreographic imagination and creativity.

The ballet moves swiftly during the first act, mainly because the action on stage is very busy. There is not much choreography until the end of the act when the Godmother appears. Page gives her a solo using the same music Ashton did. Then come the rest of the fairies to dance their solos. The most surprising element in all of them is that, in spite of the choreographic text obviously having been changed, the musical reading is exactly the same as the solos as choreographed by Ashton. This only seemed to highlight how embedded Ashton’s musicality is within Page’s choreography. There are obviously different versions of the ballet that could have provided him with other musical interpretations of Prokofiev’s music: Rotislav Zakharov’s original production for the Bolshoi, its reworking by Valery Panov for the Berlin Opera Ballet and, of course, Nureyev’s version for the Paris Opera Ballet. It is not clear whether Page decidedly discarded all these musical readings in favour of Ashton’s.

As the ballet proceeded, there were more references to Ashton’s choices of material. Like, for example, the taking the four fairies to the ball, their entrances and exits within the whole act... these were the same as Ashton’s. Needless to say, this enlarged role of the fairies does not happen in other versions.

The choreographic text created by Page was weakest at the ball,. This is the moment when pure choreography has to move the ballet forward and Page did not provide with enough contrast for the different numbers. The entrance of Cinderella was effective, but I missed Ashton’s magic or Nureyev’s imagination.

Personally, the weakest part of the whole act was the Pas de Deux. Page decided to impose his choreographic style of non-stop movement and dynamics - movements that originate from the hips and throw the female dancer forward in unbalanced positions that restrict the work of the torso. My problem with this was that the pas de deux did not seem to breathe organically with the music. There were no climaxes, no repose, no eloquence in the articulation of the musical phrases, as the movement seemed to impose itself upon the music instead of flowing with it.

The last act also discarded the travels of the Prince throughout the world and took him directly to Cinderella’s home, where he finds her and the Godmother, unites them and takes them away.

Not having seen the company before, I cannot judge how much they have changed since Page’s appointment as director. At present, they look like a young, dynamic troupe. But technically or stylistically it is not a coherent group yet. Overall, they lack strong dramatic dancers that could make the principal roles shine. Claire Robertson as Cinderella was a lovely dancer, but she did not manage to engage the audience with her character, who did not seem sympathetic enough. Her Prince, Erik Cavallari, was also a bit weak dramatically, and his technique was not strong enough as to allow him to hide this. Soon Ja Lee as the Godmother had the technique and commanding dancing required for her role. Tomomi Sato provided the most beautiful dancing in her role as Spring Fairy. She was a delight to watch, thanks to her quick, fast footwork, beautiful jump and obvious enjoyment of the choreography she had been assigned.

It seems clear that Page has provided the company with a sound ballet that will eventually grow into the dancers. I just wish, after having watched it, that either he had been more adventurous in his departure from the ballet that he obviously knew, or that he had paid more careful attention to some of its most magical details and worked upon these as points of departure. Ashton understood who Cinderella was and what she really wanted. Page’s heroine pales in comparison.

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