Men in Drag, Flying Citrus, and a Smattering of Bling: Boston Ballet’s Cinderella

You might think I’m referring to the show on my side of the river at the American Repertory Theatre: The Donkey Show when you see:  men in drag, flying fruit, and little bling here and there, but I’m not.  I’m talking about the Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella which premiered in 1948 (no that’s not a typo).  As you know I’m not a huge Disney fan and when it comes to princesses in my household we are rarely referring to the animated ones.  Don’t get me wrong, Misa Kuranaga’s Cinderella was plenty animated.  She had strength, beauty, sadness, joy, and magic.

Photo by Gene Schiavone courtesy of Boston Ballet
Photo by Gene Schiavone courtesy of Boston Ballet

We all have a little Cinderella in us, male or female, serious or playful, grown-up or child.  The Cinderella story is only partially about the prince and the wedding, it is also about being under-appreciated on some level.  It is about a time when we are not being recognized for who we are.  It is about those moments when we see others get something they probably don’t deserve.  That is at the core of Cinderella’s story.  That and the fantasy that somehow it will all go away and everything will be made right.  We need that fantasy in our lives to stay positive, to keep moving forward, to beat the odds.  Some of us are better at dreaming than others in day to day life, but for those moments when you are sucked into the magic of Cinderella dancing with her broom you hold your breathe and believe.

Photo by Gene Schiavone courtesy of Boston Ballet.
Photo by Gene Schiavone courtesy of Boston Ballet.

This performance had some very interesting stylized movement that seemed almost contemporary with flat hands and very angular port de bras.  The music by Sergei Prokofiev is beautifully performed by the Boston Ballet Orchestra.  I am a stickler for quiet pointe shoes on stage (thanks to my ballet teachers) and this performance was one of the quietest I’ve seen heard.  The dancers flew, floated, and spun across the stage as if their feet never landed in blissful quiet.

While Cinderella is the main character in the story, there are two not so little scene stealers that keep the spectacle light (albeit not on their toes) and LOL funny.  The step sisters are hilarious.

Another dancer that really stood out to me in this performance was Dusty Button as The Fairy Winter.  She danced with grace and confidence. Last, but not least, Avetik Karapetyan was truly impressive with his elevation on leaps and jumps as The Jester.  For that, I’ll excuse the slightly distracting but sometimes inevitable need to re-affix a costume headpiece.

One of the most striking (excuse the pun) parts of the ballet thanks in part to the wonderful lighting, and set design was when the clock struck midnight.  The perfect marriage of sound from the orchestra, a painted scrim, lighting and the carefully choreographed dance allowed time to slow down right before our eyes.  Watching such dramatic effect on a screen is one thing.  Seeing a world slowly suspend itself in time live is another whole level of magic.

When going to a performance with young children, dancers or not, it is even more magical when they get to see other children on stage.  The level of fantasy goes up a whole notch because there is someone their size and perhaps age inside this dream world.  The children in the performance, led by Children’s Ballet Mistress Melanie Atkins performed impeccably.

Photo by Gene Schiavone courtesy of Boston Ballet
Photo by Gene Schiavone courtesy of Boston Ballet

Cinderella is at The Boston Opera House now through March 23rd.  If you are attending tonight’s performance March 15th, as part of Boston Ballet’s 50th season anniversary, you will have the opportunity to hear from the artistic directors of Boston Ballet’s past and present. The event begins at 6 pm. Admission is free with a ticket to the evening’s performance of Cinderella.

On Saturday, March 22nd at 6:30 dancers, choreographers, musicians, and special guests offer audience members an insider’s view on the storyline, choreography, history, costumes, and music for the following season ballets.
This informal discussion is free for all ticket holders and is held at the Boston Opera House.

As for the flying citrus, it’s something you just have to see to appreciate.

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