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BWW Review: LES BALLETS DE MONTE CARLO Brings the Cinderella of Jean-Christophe Maillot to New York City Center

Jean-Christophe Maillot has put his own choreographic stamp on Sergei Prokofiev's Cinderella. The music is faster than that used in the classical version. For this reason, the up-tempo pace keeps the viewers from getting bored. The story is basically the same Cinderella story we have come to know since childhood. What is unusual is in the telling.

As the curtain opens, Cinderella, dressed in a simple, brown linen dress and bare feet, portrayed on February 19, 2016 by Anja Behrend, is dancing with a white dress (her deceased Mother's ball gown, we are told in the program). She is daydreaming about her Father, well played by Alvaro Prieto, and her Mother, danced by Mimoza Koike (who also embodies the Fairy Godmother) dancing at the ball. With the entrance of the Stepmother, Maude Saborurin, and the Stepsisters, Victoria Ananyan and Anna Blackwell, like witches (perhaps spelled with a "b") dressed in what looks like undergarments and corsets, an atmosphere of violence of power struggles, rejection, ill will, and tyrannical and sexualized gestures beckoned. It seemed to be a psychological perspective exploration. In the first scene, a pair of new characters was introduced to the story: the Pleasure Superintendents, brought to life by Alexis Oliveira and George Oliveira. These new characters were a part of every scene of the production, whether or not their purpose was quite clear.

The décor (stage design by Ernest Pignon-Ernest) looked like rumpled white panels. I searched my imagination for a moment before I realized that these panels, on which there was writing before they disappeared, leaving plain white panels, probably represented dog-eared pages of a storybook. They were on wheels, but moved infrequently. They were blank, but only used twice as screens for projections. In the second scene, one was turned around to reveal distorting mirrors, in which the stepsisters admired themselves, not noticing that they were each wearing half a ball gown, together making a whole. At the ball, the stairs seemed to be made as if it were another pleated page, resembling a staircase.

All the girls, barelegged, were dancing on pointe. Only Cinderella was barefoot. My favorite piece of business was the preparation for the ball, especially when the Pleasure Superintendents lifted Cinderella, dipping her feet and ankles in a large bowl of gold glitter (called sequins in the program, "A magical image, but a warning from the Fairy: You must remain simple. Sequins are fragile, volatile and will lose their wonderful properties if Cinderella forgets the essential quality."). It was something to ponder at the end of Act 2 as to how the Prince would be searching for Cinderella without the lost shoe. He and his four friends travel the land looking for her, but he does not immediately recognize the foot he seeks until the Fairy guides him to Cinderella.

Obviously, this is a choreographically creative interpretation of the familiar story. In Act 1, scene 2, the whimsical characters join the preparation for the ball after the Fairy delivers the invitation. There is a pair of pas de deux at the ball, danced simultaneously by Cinderella, with the Charming Prince and her Father with the Fairy, who shows up at the ball, unlike the familiar telling of this fairytale. At the ball, our heroine "begins to take pleasure in the other courtesans' mirrors. She gets intoxicated by this ambient madness and its codes of seduction. It is time for the Fairy to bring Cinderella back on the right path."

Maillot has made a ballet with both contemporary and classical ballet movements. What bothered me was the lack of homogeneous movement and flow. Here and there would be contemporary or silly passages out of which came a line of dancers doing classical pirouettes or jumps, as if they were dancing in a formulaic ballet. There seemed to be no logical thread for this. There was a lack of energy flow and follow through in the technique of many of the men, including Bourgond, which was surprising in a company of this stature. It made me curious about the training. While the girls had pretty legs and bodies, some seemed particularly one dimensional, especially the stepmother and stepsisters. It was hard to know if this was entirely the fault of the dancers or whether it came from the direction and the choreography. The pas de deux of Cinderella and her Prince was rather beautiful, demonstrating an unevenness of choreography.

All in all, it was still an interesting production.

Photo credit: Alice Blangero



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