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Joanna G. Harris
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Zellerbach Hall
United States
San Francisco Bay Area
Berkeley, CA

Mariinsky Ballet's Dancers Wonderful In Ratmanksy’s Uneven Cinderella

by Joanna G. Harris
October 3, 2015
Zellerbach Hall
Bancroft Way at Telegraph
(2430 Bancroft Ave.)
Berkeley, CA 94704
Joanna G. Harris Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
Alexei Ratmansky, born in St. Petersburg and trained at the Bolshoi, was commissioned by the Mariinsky Ballet to choreograph Cinderella in 2002, thereby launching his career. He is now artist in residence at American Ballet Theatre in New York and is best known locally for the San Francisco Ballet 2014 production of his “Shostakovich Trilogy” and "From Foreign Lands" (2013).

For this three act production Ratmansky, in the program notes says it “combines classical ballet with mime, contemporary dance, and references to Broadway and pop culture…” Some of these styles provide amusement, some grotesque aspects of comedy, some charming dance interludes and several remarkable, classical “pas de deux” for the principals. As a total production these juxtapositions of style became awkward.

The best dancing was performed by Diana Vishneva as Cinderella and Konstantin Zverev as the Prince. Both possess an open gracefulness, strong legs and backs and lyrical arm gestures. All these, plus good acting skills, invoke the romantic illusions that recall the classic tradition. These two carry the show when other aspects fail to be successfully realized; not by the dancers themselves but by the choreographic material.

The step-mother character (Anastasia Petushkova) and the two step sisters (Margartia Frolova and Yekaterina Ivannikova)are made particularly grotesque in a bizarre throw-back routine of vulgar costumes, hairdos and ungainly gesture. Yet these traits are dropped when the usual ballet moves are required. This reviewer, unlike many in the audience found them un-funny. The good fairy (Elena Bazhenova) is turned into a fairy-tramp and her role, certainly against stereotype, is very successful in performance.

Perhaps the best production number is named "The Four Seasons," during which dancers represented those time periods. They support, warn, encourage and generally grace the stage with their representations of seasonal time. Time is Cinderella’s nemesis since she must leave the ball at midnight. A huge revolving clock dominated the stage to remind us all of the change between the romantic ball and the prosaic household.

The company of dancers on stage were dressed in a wide variety of powerful colors (orange, red, purple) and filled the stage with steps recalling a mix of tangos, two-step and at the last minute, a waltz.

Again the pas-de-deux by the principals magnified this strange event.

Also intrusive and prolonging the action are two divertissement, one for women and the other for men, which seemingly provide distraction from the Prince’s search for the owner of the glass slipper. After a great deal of toe pinching by the step-sisters, Cinderella drops the slipper to his feet. The romantic finale is at last achieved.

Perhaps the Zellerbach stage is not large enough to handle all the performers the Mariinsky uses. Perhaps we retain other memories of Cinderella (from Disney to Ashton) that intercede with our vision of the story. Perhaps even the Prokoviev score (though very well played by the Mariinsky Orchestra under Gavriel Heine) is uneven in its thematic material and orchestration. Ratmansky’s 2002 production, although wonderfully danced, is a modern variety show whose elements do not blend entirely into a satisfactory whole.
A scene from Alexei Ratmansky's 'Cinderella.'

A scene from Alexei Ratmansky's "Cinderella."

Photo © & courtesy of Valentin Baranovsky

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