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American Ballet Theatre


Orange County Performing Arts Center, Costa Mesa, CA

December 23, 2000

While Cinderella is a well-known and much beloved fairy tale, it still needs to be told to be beloved and, in my opinion, Ben Stevenson’s version barely tells it. A lot has happened before the curtain rises. One supposes a widowed man and woman have met, married and joined their already existing family of three girls. The ascendancy of the new wife and her two malaprop daughters is already an accomplished fact. What we see is a benighted addled husband and his neglected put upon daughter. He is presented as entirely helpless to the fate to which he has been consigned. In this version all meat has been stripped from the story and only the bones remain. I am left wondering why it is that the father is complicit? In other versions of this ballet, the father is as heartless as the stepmother is, and that to me, makes more sense.

The stage in almost every act is overtaken by the slapstick camp of the stepsisters very ably danced in travesty by Marcello Gomes and Sean Stewart. However, this is supposed to be Cinderella’s story, but she is upstaged time and again. The sisters engage in a few dozen too many prat falls (though the lady sitting behind me laughed at every one), and a few too many smackings. One wonders how even the stepmother can bear it. There was almost no interaction betwixt husband and wife. I would have liked to see a great deal more of the actual dressing for the ball, which would have lent pathos to Cinderella’s loneliness and neglect.

Irina Dvorovenko, as Cinderella, a newly promoted principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre is without doubt a lovely dancer. She has clear long lines and a secure technique. There were no bumps, or rough places that I could see. The petit allegro is edged with quicksilver set into relief by the signature flic-flac sur la pointe. A particularly captivating enchainement of fluid turns ended in an arresting tire-bouchon, made sweeter by its very slowness. Cinderella’s tutu was an angelic pink, softer than the pie plate versions of many tutus we see today, and for this softness, this viewer is grateful. And, yes, I did like the sparkles on her pointe shoes.

Her prince, Carlos Molina, replaced her scheduled partner and husband, Maxim Belotserkovsky, who was sidelined with an injury. Mr. Molina is listed in the program as a member of the corps de ballet so this role is quite a step for him. Though he appeared nervous, the partnership was steady enough but one could see the impact of his ballerina’s weight in the lifts – it was not airily done. He was a bit more secure when dancing on his own, though there, too, an occasional “save” was necessary. However, considering the circumstances, he made a credible start and is on a road upward. He needs time to grow. On the whole I would say that we got to see this Prince and his future princess dance, but we didn’t get to see them fall in love. It was a missed opportunity.

The fairy godmother, Gillian Murphy, and the other fairies, Yan Chen, Ekaterina Shelkanova, Sandra Brown and Anna Liceica, all did well. They sparkled, they fluttered they were the stuff of gossamer. Their costumes were quite, quite lovely and their dancing a delight. Actually, for pure dance, this was the high point for me. I enjoyed the dragonflies too, but wished that Tony Tucci, had lit them a bit more.

The ballroom scene was a palette of deep reds and deep rose pinks and had an air of baroque pseudo splendor. I thought the rhinestone buckles on the slippers of the men during the waltz was a nice touch. The ensemble dancing seemed a bit muddled and I think would have been more effective if less complex. This act was dominated by the jester, superbly danced by Herman Cornejo. He, of the sturdy thighs, is made to jump weightlessly and spin endlessly. He touches the ground only to be air borne once again. Well, I must correct myself, the jester didn’t quite dominate this act, he shared a good deal of it with those two omnipresent stepsisters who simply moved their act from the kitchen to the ballroom.

Nothing at all was made of the Prince’s search for his lost beloved and I think therefore another occasion was missed in engaging the heartstrings of the audience. Here was the opportunity to introduce some emotional tension, the longing of the prince, his vision of his beloved, his loss, his search. In this version of Cinderella, the Prince might very well have found his princess-to-be at the first house he visits. We see only the two obviously incorrect feet of the stepsisters trying on the slippper. And, it is even the jester who notices and suggests that Cinderella try on the slipper.

As for the marriage celebration, there was almost no dancing at all. The entire production left me feeling uninvolved. This version of the story needs a bit more emotional meat.


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Edited by Marie.

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