BWW Reviews: American Ballet Theatre's Cutting-edge CINDERELLA
American Ballet Theatre's premiere of the Royal Ballet's Cinderella was a beautifully romantic and astonishingly comedic whirlwind of a fairytale. With Frederick Ashton's cutting-edge choreography set to Sergei Prokofiev's vibrant score, American Ballet Theatre delivered a ballet enjoyable for all ages.
Ashton's Cinderella is unlike the Disney fairytale, which many young audience members had hoped it to be. However, it is quite a fresh, theatrical spectacle for a production more than 65 years old! Despite the differences between the beloved film and this Royal Ballet classic, the audience was touched and very much entertained.
While the audience eagerly waited for the magic of the grand ball, they were kept amused by Cinderella's stepsisters, played by Roman Zhurbin and Craig Salstein. This show-stealing pair had such amazing chemistry that it was easy for the audience to forget who the main duo was. Their silly dancing and unbelievably ridiculous antics created plenty of laughter, leaving audiences in anticipation of what these stepsisters would do next. Whether it was getting ready for the ball by trying on new clothes or flirting with the Dancing Master when practicing their waltzes, the pair was sure to gain giggles, even a delayed kiddie giggle breaking the silence and the seriousness of it all. And these two were serious; in all their silliness, they were very, very serious. Their moves were delivered with great distinction and conviction, never getting lost in any sloppy or hurried silliness, thus making the punch line that much more effective.
But lest the audience forget, Ashton was certain to include such beautiful dancing. Hee Seo exemplified that through her most exquisite and elegant portrayal of Cinderella. The opposite of her stepsisters, Cinderella was poised yet carefree, even taking time in between perfect little bourrées and gorgeous extensions to mock them. Ms. Seo was marvelous; from her beautifully arched feet to her light-as-a-feather pointe work, she is a master of her art, what one can only hope young ballerinas aspire to be.
Ashton dabbled in dynamic choreography, as evidenced by the Fairy Godmother sequence. The graceful Veronika Part portrayed the Fairy Godmother, while the Fairies of spring, summer, autumn, and winter were danced by Skylar Brandt, Christine Shevchenko, Yuriko Kajiya, and Melanie Hamrick respectively, each performing segments of contrasting styles. Ashton's choreography was quick and hurried yet precise; it was slow and controlled yet delicate.
His grand ball was quite grand, with formations and dancing that filled the massive stage at the Metropolitan Opera House. The Jester, portrayed by Luis Ribagorda, was another show-stealer as he engaged in a series of high-flying jumping sequences. Together with the stepsisters, the trio made for an interesting sight at the ball.
Then Cinderella met the Prince, played by James Whiteside. The pair's first encounter was quite interesting. The dancing was perfectly synched to the music in the most surprising way, where bold, urgent music paired with the rousing duet led to a most romantic storyline. However, as the night carried on, the two fell more in love, their dancing more hushed yet exquisitely delivered.
And as the fairytale went on, the story remained true: a hurried midnight goodbye, two unsuccessful attempts at fitting slippers, and a happily ever after, culminating in a breathtaking pas de deux by Hee Seo and James Whiteside, a reminder of the romantic side of Ashton's theatrical ballet and the technical mastery of American Ballet Theatre. A wonderfully entertaining performance for regular ballet-goers and the young girls who wished to see their favorite princess dance with her handsome prince.
Photo Credit: Rosalie O'Connor