The Tchaikovsky Perm Ballet Theatre


Choreography: Oleg Vinogradov
Composer: Prokofiev
Set and Costumes: Viacheslav Okunev

Spreckels Theater, San Diego, California

April 21, 2002, 2 p.m.

The old Spreckels Theater is intimate and charming. Anna Pavlova once graced its stage. I think she would have enjoyed the innovative touches in this production of Cinderella: the inherent sweetness of the role and the well-deserved rescue from clogs to rags to tutu. Set before a backcloth indicating a sometimes parlor sometimes kitchen, Yulia Mashkina's Cinderella, lives among several giant tea and coffeepots lined up on either side of a fireplace. She is in patched rags, and outsize faux wooden clogs. Surely this must be the most cumbersome pair of shoes a dancer has ever been asked to dance in. Such beautiful legs in such awkward footwear. They imprison her just as surely as does her humble station within the household which is dominated by her stepmother and stepsisters. She is forced to walk heel to toe, rather than the ballet sequence of toe-heel. They are an effective symbol of her circumstance and add poignancy to every step.

In other productions the stepsisters often overpower the entire ballet. Their constant friction, comic and otherwise, dominates the stage and therefore the tale. Since there is little dramatic depth to the love story between the Prince and Cinderella, the antics of the stepsisters prevails. Not so in this production. These two roles are danced en pointe with great verve, both comic and naughty, by Irina Kozyntseva and Yuri Khiguchi. The choreography was by no means a throwaway. It was complex and demanding. Never stooping to the actually nasty, it remained within the realm of everyone's sibling memory, a bit competitive, a bit underhanded, a bit saucy. The two dancers were a pleasure both technically and dramatically.

But those giant tea and coffee pots? What of them? When the dancing master has departed, and the stepsisters and mother are otherwise engaged off stage, Cinderella is alone with these pots and they become her friends. They begin to rise and male dancers, clothed in black, who were all this time sitting inside each pot, danced around Cinderella and her world of the kitchen. It reminds one that each of us has probably at some time had a friendship with an inanimate object to assuage an inner loneliness. Thus we are connected to Cinderella's plight in the midst of her family. It's a charming choreographic contrivance.

Since we are not shown any overt act of kindness on Cinderella's part, there is no clear connection between the arrival of an old crone and her reincarnation into the Good Fairy. We are not given a reason why the Good Fairy favors Cinderella, except perhaps to take pity on her loneliness and her desire to attend the ball. Nevertheless the Good Fairy, joined by a corps de ballet of like-minded fairies, performs her magic and Cinderella is transformed. Unfortunately at times the choreography too closely resembles the deadly Wilis of Giselle. This is redeemed, however, when at the end they celebrate Cinderella's transformation accompanied by Prokofiev's sweeping waltz. The importance of the clock is emphasized with a circle of male dancers dressed in black and imprinted with the hours. At first it's a clever device, but as Cinderella circles the human clock, with a pirouette and a developpˇ behind each one, it begins to get repetitive.

The most poignant moment of the transformation scene is when Cinderella comes onto the stage in her new white tutu/gown. She is lovely except for those imprisoning clogs still on her feet. Every woman can identify with her consternation; she needs new shoes to match her gown. The Good Fairy provides a sparkling pair of pointe shoes into which Cinderella steps and ties her ribbons in full view. We all got to watch this final change from rags and clogs to a ball gown and pointe shoes.

The stage setting for the ballroom is a bit more ornate, but not very. Ornament is indicated rather than actualized. Again, this scene is often the place where the stepsisters dominate the action, but happily, not in this production. Roman Geer as the Prince was adequately surprised and happy to see the lovely Cinderella at his ball and follows his father's advice to pay her court. The king is played as a comic role, but again not overdone. Geer has a feather-light bounding jump, with silent landings, noiseless even in a small theater. In this case proximity lent awe to his prowess. But the aplomb of his jump unfortunately did not carry over into his turn sequences, several of which were ragged. The pas de deux of the Prince and Cinderella was pleasurable and happy. I found Mashkina's portrayal interesting. It is a difficult role to which to add true depth.

In his search for his beloved, the Prince with Cinderella's shoe in hand, is accompanied by a contingent of a fine male corps de ballet dressed as soldiers. They pass through Spain indicated by a group of Spanish dancers in red flamenco dresses. The Orient is represented by a corps of women in flesh tone tights and leotards and sheathed in a diaphanous swirl of white net, giving the impression of veiled nudity. Their dance was slow and hypnotic. But the Prince returns to his own country without finding his love. No reason is given as to why after searching the world over, he then goes to a home within his own kingdom. Wouldn't one search within one's own realm first? Well, it is a fairy story! He comes upon Cinderella once again dressed in her rags and clogs. After the brief but unsuccessful attempts by the stepsisters to don the shoe the Prince carries with him, Cinderella is asked to try. The shoe fits. And if the shoe fits, she is his princess. The final pas de deux was both beautiful and memorable.

This is a satisfying production, happily danced. The company is not of the first rank, but nonetheless enjoyable to watch. It doesn't overplay its hand, doesn't pretend to ostentation. I would willingly see them again.

A full orchestra travels with the company. Because of the small size of the orchestra pit in the Spreckels Theater, the musicians were ranged into the side boxes of the house, which brought the performance out into the audience. Valery Platonov, the conductor, brought it all together in a fine manner.


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Edited by Mary Ellen.

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