By David F. Pendrys
FAIRFIELD, CT – The Russian National Ballet Theatre recently swung their U.S. Tour into Fairfield University’s Quick Center for an impressive performance of “Cinderella.”
The ballet was initially composed by Sergei Prokofiev with a Libretto (story line) created by Nikolai Volkov. The original piece premiered in the forties with original choreography by Rostislav Zakharov. The RNBT’s stage version was developed by their Artistic Director Elena Radchenko, a former principal dancer at the Bolshoi.
The ballet was staged in two acts, with the first scene of Act 1 set in Cinderella’s House and later a Ball in the Royal Palace. This moves the familiar story ahead as Cinderella is mistreated by her stepsisters and stepmother before eventually the elegant Fairy Godmother arrives to give Cinderella her gown and shoes. Cinderella is already revealed early to possess great ability of her own even as she dances in her rags.
The first scene includes a comical portion as the Royal Dance Master attempts to teach the stepsisters how to dance and they struggle. The Fairy Godmother is later accompanied by the well skilled four seasons Fairies, all five are in resplendent tutus as they engage in their various movements. The Time itself is characterized by an elite dancer who with high kicks signifies the hands on a clock as he leaps around as the Godmother’s magic works are set into place.
The ball is well staged as the Corps de Ballet move through the dance floor in pairs exemplifying the ball itself. Four Ambassadors arrive, though they do not do much in the initial ball, as their dance showcase will be in Act 2. The overall dance was an awesome sight even before the story line advanced.
The Ambassadors unfortunately reflect stereotypes, reflecting the time period of the ballet’s creation, though it is also an artistic question of how to reflect differing cultures in an unspoken performance.
The Prince eventually arrives and performs splendidly. Throughout the show he not unexpectedly, engages in highly athletic leaps including one sequence where he rapidly circles the stage hitting element after element with great height.
The stepdaughters arrive and make fools of themselves, though in an interesting twist, the performers need to be so good at dancing, that they have to intentionally dance poorly and still make it look good, which they succeeded at.
Cinderella gets her chance in a beautiful outfit to shine on stage attracting the Prince’s attention, setting up a pas de deux between the two. Of course she forgets the time, and in an elaborate scene The Time himself returns and the music gets darker as the cast surrounds Cinderella, and her outfit reverts back to rags in a creative costume change. She flees and in a shock to no one leaves a slipper behind.
Act 2 consists of 3 scenes, the first sits back at The Palace as the Prince seeks Cinderella. Instead four women enter, one from each Ambassador. They engage in dance reflective of the culture they are representing, also clad in a stereotypical fashion. The Ambassadors also dance in this sequence. The dancing itself is impressive. Of course none of these women are the match for the slipper.
The Prince heads to Cinderella’s house where she is engaging in a dance to remind her of her visit to him. The stepsisters are engaged in a fight which includes a fantastic moment when one stepsister, balanced on one foot up on pointe turns with her outstretched other leg and kicks her sister away.
Of course the Prince is oblivious and tries the slipper on the stepsisters but eventually the slipper ends up on Cinderella’s foot. As the Prince reacts in surprise the Fairy Godmother returns to advise the Prince to see past his elitist blindness and realize this is the woman he loves. The two dance, though Cinderella remains in her dirty clothes.
In the final scene, the Fairy Godmother gives Cinderella back her dress and she and the Prince dance again at the palace majestically.
The curtain call itself that follows is actually an elaborate dance in itself with the various cast members entering and performing. It is an interesting scene as characters who weren’t interacting in the story line are all taking part at once in the choreographic exploit.
Sets and costumes were designed by Elizaveta Dvorkina and the lighting was done by Marina Borodina. Both were vital to the performance, as they worked with one back curtain which changed its look based on the way the light shined on it, an impressive way to deal with the restraints of travel and the differing venues they would have. The costumes were well done. The tutus especially all looked excellent even from a distance, and when the dancers were moving in dresses, they flowed fluidly and impressively.
This recap can’t possibly do justice to the dancing prowess, but the group did a stellar job. Obviously when one hears a Russian group will be doing ballet, the expectations are going to be very high, and the RNBT provided just what would be expected with stunning leaps, poise and balances, and spins and pointe work of high quality.
Editor’s Note: The Cast was announced via announcement but was not noted in the program, which is why that information is not included.