Fans of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette, performed by Pacific Northwest Ballet last season, will be pleased to find his penchant for minimalism and contemporary choreography in Cendrillon, this time with a bit more comedic (and literal) sparkle.
The story of Cinderella is a familiar one, here with a few quirks that give it a fresh, less fairy tale milieu. We open on a scene of the eponymous character, forlornly holding a simple, white silk dress as her parents dance in the background. It’s a memory of their love story and the dress is her mother’s, serving throughout the ballet as a symbol of her loss. Father and daughter share in their grief, even after he marries again.
Cinderella’s father remains alive in this rendition, but is torn between protecting his daughter and appeasing his seductive new wife. While her new step family worries over their physical appearances and their clothes, Cinderella is either tormented by her stepsisters or ignored altogether.
When Maillot’s version of the fairy godmother, here simply “Fairy”, shows up, it is truly magical. The energetic ballerina is glittering from head to toe and bears an uncanny resemblance to Cinderella’s mother. She flits about the stage and soon takes control of the storyline, nudging several characters in the right direction. In one enchanting scene, The Fairy (visible to everyone) dances with Cinderella’s dumbstruck father as Cinderella herself falls in love with her prince: a selfish and impetuous young man who can’t help but be swept away by Cinderella’s quiet innocence — and her golden, glittering feet. No glass slippers here!
There is plenty of room for comedy amid the romance, the source of which — often — is two servants aptly credited as “pleasure superintendents.” The two men are never far from the stage, in charge of everything from decorating for the prince’s ball to helping him find the golden feet of his mystery woman. At one point, they act out a parody of the ballet’s story along with the help of a quartet of male dancers dressed as mannequins in ball gowns, which has the audience laughing the whole scene through.
The set is immaculate and ingenious. Each partition and prop serves multiple purposes, as the stage transforms from Cinderella’s home to a grand ballroom to a ship on a boisterous sea. This is all complemented by masterful use of projection and lighting, innovative costuming and, of course, Prokofiev’s dramatic and spirited orchestration, which can in mere moments change from uplifting to heartrending.
In Cendrillon, we are given not just one love story, but two — the story of Cinderella’s parents mirroring her own. It is as much a story of discovery and new love as it is of love and loss. The entire production is charismatic and humorous, with a melancholic undertone that resonates even into the ending scene.
Cendrillon is on stage through Feb. 12, 2017. For more information or to buy tickets click here.