Interview: Lead Ballerina Monica Gomez Shares Insight to the Unique Style and Story of Houston Ballet's CINDERELLA

This one-of-a-kind, beautiful production is only running from February 22nd-March 3rd! You do not want to miss it.

By: Feb. 23, 2024
Interview: Lead Ballerina Monica Gomez Shares Insight to the Unique Style and Story of Houston Ballet's CINDERELLA
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Houston Ballet’s season is continuing with a return of artistic director Stanton Welch’s Cinderella, which is running from February 22nd-March 3rd. However, this production is not the typical Cinderella that you may know; instead, this unconventional interpretation incorporates various versions of the age-old classic fairytale. Originally staged for The Australian Ballet in 1997, Welch’s rendition of Cinderella offers a multi-layered story of a woman coming into her own. Set to Prokofiev’s classic score with spectacular set and costume design by Kristian Fredrikson, Welch’s unique spin on the classic tale brings the work into modern times, with a twist suited for the 21st century.

BroadwayWorld Houston had the chance to speak with Mónica Gómez, one of the ballerinas portraying Cinderella in Houston Ballet's 2024 Cinderella production. She gave some insight into her experience of performing such a unique leading role, the dazzling moments we can look forward to in this production, and what makes this Cinderella story so timely and special.


Interview: Lead Ballerina Monica Gomez Shares Insight to the Unique Style and Story of Houston Ballet's CINDERELLA
Houston Ballet First Soloist Mónica Gómez
as Princess Florine in Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty.
Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox (2020).
Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

To start us off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What is your history with dance and the Houston Ballet?

I joined the Houston Ballet in 2015. I came from Cuba. I was originally with the National Ballet of Cuba, and then I came here and joined the Houston Ballet, so it's been about 10 years. It has been a great time! I have had many, many roles. I started as an Apprentice and then earned my way up to First Soloist.

Can you tell us about Stanton Welch’s production of Cinderella? Is it like the classic fairy tale that we all know, or is there anything unique about this story?

I love this Cinderella, and I am having so much fun! This Cinderella was created by our Artistic Director, Stanton Welch; he is a genius. Every movement and show that he creates has meaning. If I recall correctly, he always wanted to be an actor, so he is so good at storytelling. His version is not like the Disney Cinderella. Our Cinderella is a tomboy, and she is very comfortable with herself. She is more real, relatable, and imperfect, in a way. She has short hair, and she's always doing movements that are not what you would do in proper society at that time.

The story is similar in that she loses her mom, and she has the stepsisters, who are very bad to her. She's always doing the cleaning around, so that part of the story is there. However, one of the most beautiful things that I think is so unique and moving is that we don't have a fairy godmother that makes the dress or pumpkin carriage. Instead, her mother comes as a ghost; she is like a memory. Then, Cinderella's dress in made with fabrics from other ghosts in the graveyard. Cinderella's mom in this ballet is her guiding light and role model. She's the one telling her it's okay, be comfortable with yourself, dress up, you deserve this, and go to the ball.

Interview: Lead Ballerina Monica Gomez Shares Insight to the Unique Style and Story of Houston Ballet's CINDERELLA
Houston Ballet Principal Karina González as Cinderella
and Artists of Houston Ballet
in Stanton Welch's Cinderella.
Photo by Amitava Sarkar (2017).
Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

In the second act, Cinderella goes to the ball thinking this is what she wants; she has such a grand idea of what she is getting into. She has never been through anything like it, so she has a different idea of what it will be like. When she arrives, she is the most beautiful girl in the whole ballroom; everybody's eyes are on her because she's very human and unique. When she sees the environment at the ball where people are always gossiping…they're not real, fake, superficial, and all about riches….she starts not liking that.

Interview: Lead Ballerina Monica Gomez Shares Insight to the Unique Style and Story of Houston Ballet's CINDERELLA
Houston Ballet Principal Karina González as Cinderella
and former Principal Jared Matthews as the Prince
in Stanton Welch's Cinderella.
Photo by Amitava Sarkar (2017).
Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

She also finds the Prince is not who she expected either. In our story, she doesn't end up with the Prince. In so many fairy tales, the girls stay with the Prince and live out a fairytale. However–in our version–the story is more real since she stays with the nice guy who touches her heart, which is not the Prince (who turns out to be completely fake). Everything was given to the Prince; he is spoiled and he feels like he is the most handsome man in the world. Nothing else matters but his looks and riches, and he does not treat Cinderella right. He does not even look her in her eyes. However, the servant of the Prince causes Cinderella to feel sparks.

Cinderella is comfortable with herself; she doesn't care how her hair or clothes look like. However, when she has doubt about whether she is good enough, the servant loves her just the way she is. Her love for him reminds her of the relationship between her mom and dad, who she really looks up to. The love between Cinderella and the man she ends up with so beautiful and very well-represented at the end of ballet. I think people are going to love it because it's just so real, and it goes with what society is going through right now.

Everybody in this show gets who they deserve. Cinderella’s mom and dad get to watch Cinderella live happily ever after; she ends up with the Prince’s servant. The ugly stepsisters get the Prince, which is so funny. One is clueless, always eating, and the other one is just obsessed about herself. 

I understand that you are performing as Cinderella in the Houston Ballet’s production. What is it like playing such an iconic, titular role? Is there anything particularly challenging about taking on this role

I have never had to act like a tomboy before, so that's been a little bit of a challenge. Also–because of how real Cinderella is–there is a lot of storytelling to be done and emotion to be expressed. To express emotions that everyone has felt–such as not being good enough–can be vulnerable and difficult.

What does a typical day of rehearsal look like for you for this production?

When it comes to this production, we do pretty much all-day “Cinderella”! We focus on “Cinderella” in the morning, and then for half of the day, we work on other shows that we're going to do after “Cinderella”. We are always doing multiple ballets at the same time.

Are there any technical spectacles or design elements in this production that we can look forward to?

Yes! The ghost scene is an amazing scene. I think that the costumes are very cool, and they are wearing these masks that are really creepy but also hilarious because each ghost has their own personality. They walk really funny since they have been sleeping for 200 years or so.

Interview: Lead Ballerina Monica Gomez Shares Insight to the Unique Style and Story of Houston Ballet's CINDERELLA
Houston Ballet Principal Karina González as Cinderella
with Artists of Houston Ballet
in Stanton Welch's Cinderella.
Photo by Amitava Sarkar (2017).
Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

Also, the clock part is fantastic. The dress is going to disappear, and it is very spooky and clean. Frankly, all of the costuming are beautiful!

Oh, and the stepsisters are men playing girls. They are a highlight of the show! They have a lot of steps, and it's been very challenging for them. When they rehearse, they put their pointe shoots on every day to get used to it.

What is your dress like in the ballroom scene?

Interview: Lead Ballerina Monica Gomez Shares Insight to the Unique Style and Story of Houston Ballet's CINDERELLA
Houston Ballet Principal Karina González as Cinderella
and former Principal Jared Matthews as the Prince
with Artists of Houston Ballet
in Stanton Welch's Cinderella.
Photo by Amitava Sarkar (2017).
Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

It’s very beautiful. I have a beautiful feather crown and a beautiful necklace that's actually all diamonds. The dress is more like a Romeo and Juliet type of style, not very sparkly and gold. It is very shiny because all eyes have to be on her, but it is not the most extravagant dress. It is just simple, youthful, and delicate.  

I have heard that this ballet is appealing to newcomers. What makes it fit for someone who has not come to a ballet before?

I think just the facts that everybody gets their happy ending and that Cinderella doesn't leave with the Prince will be relatable with audiences. It shares the lesson that nobody's perfect and that there will still be somebody out there that will love you. However–at the same time–it is an approachable fairy tale that everybody knows of. It is just so fun; audiences will leave in love and laughing.

Do you happen to know how big the cast is for this production? It sounds pretty large!

Oh, we use the entire company. There are about 60 of us, and then we are working with a Second Company from the Academy. All hands are on deck!

How is it like working with Connor Walsh, who you are dancing across from in this production?

When I joined the company, I was very young. I was 22 years old, and I grew up watching  Connor and Karina Gonzálezas principals. I was like a little girl watching these superstars. I thought, oh my God, I wish I could be there one day. They are just such an incredible and connected team. They make everything look so easy. Now, I get to dance with him! Connor is one of the best partners in the company and in the world, in my opinion. I’ve had a great time dancing with him, and we have great connection. I just have so much respect with him, and dancing with him is a dream come true.

To finish us off here, when and where can we see this production?

We start performing shows on February 22nd, and we finish our run on March 3rd. We have one show on each Thursday, Friday, and Sunday; we perform twice each Saturday. The shows are taking place at the Wortham Theater. You can buy your tickets here


Be sure to buy your tickets now before all of the tickets are sold for this limited run!




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