Richmond Ballet to Present CINDERELLA, 2/13-16

Richmond Ballet presents Malcolm Burn’s Cinderella.
Richmond Ballet 2014. All rights reserved.
Photo by Sarah Ferguson.

Richmond Ballet has announced the return of a fairytale favorite, as Malcolm Burn's full-length Cinderella will be presented at the Carpenter Theatre at Richmond CenterStage, February 13-16, 2014. Sergei Prokofiev's romantic score will be brought to life by the Richmond Symphony for all five performances. In addition, 28 children from The School of Richmond Ballet will perform alongside the professional company and Richmond Ballet II. Richmond Ballet last performed Burn's Cinderella in February of 2009 to sold-out audiences. In a landmark season when the company is celebrating 30 years of its own dreams coming true, Cinderella's inclusion is both poignant and fitting.

Choreographed in 2000 for Richmond Ballet by the Ballet's own Ballet Master and Artistic Associate, Burn's Cinderella is inspired by the beloved Charles Perrault fairytale of a young girl, a sparkling slipper, a handsome prince. But for Burn, Cinderella is more than a simple tale. "Cinderella is a dance drama that is filled with personal, recognizable moments," he explained ahead of the ballet's premiere in 2000. "Those who see the ballet should relate in a very personal way to what is happening on stage. Each moment should evoke an association, whether it be the joy of finding your true love, the sorrow that comes with losing a parent, the anguish that you feel when you are subjected to persecution, or the belief in a happily ever after." Today, now over a decade later, Burn still believes that the audience's emotional investment in the story remains crucial to the ballet's success. "Each person will bring his or her own experiences to the theater, and Cinderella - essentially a story of hope and transition - will mean something different for everyone. That's the fascinating part."

Burn's choreography bears the hallmarks of his lengthy career as a professional dancer, during which he danced four different versions of the fairytale ballet. Burn assures that every step his characters take further their story, whether it be a romantic, magical or humorous one. Moreover, Burn's tremendous sense of space and of musicality have infused themselves into the ballet's ensemble pieces, as the patterns of the large, sweeping ballroom waltzes flow with a seamless and graceful ease. Also on display in Cinderella, is Burn's fervent appetite for knowledge. While choreographing the ballet in 2000, Burn consulted hundreds of versions of the Cinderella tale, research that has colored the development of the ballet's central character; one can see that the ballet's young girl is emotionally deep and full, informed by dreamers from around the world, and from across the centuries.

The upcoming run will mark the third time Burn's Cinderella has appeared on the Richmond Ballet stage. "For me, from year to year, there is not a great deal that changes with regards to the ballet. Since putting Cinderella together, I have always known the story that I wanted to tell, and certainly, the essentials stay the same. However, we'll always have new dancers who are learning the information for the first time, so it's great to see the ballet being absorbed by a new group. But you know what I love most, every time? The kids. I just love seeing their reactions, their faces, that's the best part of it all for me."

While Perrault's classic tale - and its many versions - is beloved the world over, the ballet as it is known today is distinctly more contemporary. Theater archives indicate that various full-length productions of Cinderella did in fact exist in Europe by the 1890's, and perhaps even earlier, but the ballet would not appear in its most well-known version until after World War II. In the 1940's, the Soviet (Russian) ballet world led the effort to revive Cinderella, turning to Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev to write a new score to accompany a libretto penned by Nikolai Volkov.

Inspired by the love story at the heart of the classic fairytale, Prokofiev wrote that, in his music for Cinderella, he "wished to express above all...the poetic love of Cinderella and the prince and the birth and flowering of that love, the obstacles in its path and the finally, the dream realized." Prokofiev's score has become the ballet's defining characteristic, and indeed, though the ballet has passed through many choreographic iterations, it is the Russian's music that has remained a constant guide. "Prokofiev's music is beautiful," says Burn, "and it is quite complex. In dance, the choreography and the music are inseparable and work in tandem to tell the story. When the musical score is as compelling as Prokofiev's Cinderella, a choreographer would be a fool to ignore its influence. It is simply stunning." Writing his musical notes for Burn's 2000 premiere, Richmond Symphony guest conductor Ron Matson added that Prokofiev's score for Cinderella concluded with "one of the most vivid musical moments of 20th century music...[a] famous midnight scene, [with] thrilling music, [a] ticking clock, and 12 strokes of midnight."

In 1945, with choreography by Rostislav Zakharov, a libretto by Volkov and music by Prokofiev, Cinderella made its debut at a grand series of festivities at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow to celebrate the Soviet Union's victory in World War II. The ballet was an instant and tremendous success.

Cinderella has since passed through the hands of many choreographers, including Mr. Burn. In 1946, the Kirov Theatre (now the Mariinsky Ballet) and choreographer Konstantin Sergeyev produced yet another version for audiences in Leningrad. One of the more widely-known iterations of the ballet remains Sir Frederick Ashton's 1948 version, which is still performed by The Royal Ballet today. Recently, contemporary ballet choreographers Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon have created new versions of the fairytale ballet for the Mariinsky Ballet and The Australian Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet and the Dutch National Ballet, respectively.

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