Wising up

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  October 22, 2008

But there are real laughs, too. Cinderella’s Stepsister is a marcelled blonde-bombshell wanna-be, and her Other Stepsister (that’s what Kudelka calls them) is a myopic spazz. The Stepmother is a chainsmoking dipso, and the two men — “A Hired Escort” and “Another Hired Escort” — she engages to take her daughters to the ball come on like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire even though between them they have four left feet. The ball guests go ga-ga and wind up looking in the wrong direction the first couple of times the Prince’s entrance is anticipated. (Did Kudelka get this idea from the “rooster entrance” in Frederick Ashton’s La Fille Mal Gardée?) Then they fracture Prokofiev’s mazurka into a kaleidoscope of jazzy ’20s dances. (One continuing puzzle: when Prokofiev quotes the famous march from his opera The Love for Three Oranges, you’d think the guests would be given oranges to underline the joke, but no.) At the wedding, the Stepsisters run on and fling themselves, one by one, at the Prince — whom they never really met — before being carried off in paroxysms of unrequited-love despair. And they remain in character during the curtain call: when, as is her prerogative, Cinderella as the leading lady steps forward to escort the orchestra conductor to center stage, the Stepsisters push her aside and grab him for themselves.

Every ballet company waxes and wanes, and here some of the departed from the 2005 production were missed: Jennifer Glaze’s lovably ditsy Stepmother; Vilia Putrius as a shimmy-shouldered ball guest; Mindaugas Bauzys as the officer who kept almost-falling out of the car; Viktor Plotnikov as a slouchy, Humphrey Bogart–like Photo Journalist. But there’s a lot left to appreciate: Shannon Parsley as a Mary Poppins–gracious Fairy Godmother in garden green (and her last name could hardly be more appropriate); Jared Redick as the Hired Escort whose pretensions are most hilariously at odds with his prowess; Sarah Wroth as a sparkly, photo-op-obsessed ball guest and a sensuous Spanish Gypsy; Tempe Ostergren as an “Ooh, me?! Wait, get my good side” shoe-store customer; Rie Ichikawa’s elegant, implacable Twig. Misa Kuranaga was a delicate, nuanced (overused words, but they actually apply here) Blossom, Melissa Hough a languid, luxuriating Petal, Dalay Parrondo an agitated Moss.

The Stepsisters were sublime. Kathleen Breen Combes did the Stepsister in 2005, and Heather Myers the Other Stepsister, but to the best of my memory, they were always in different casts. Usually the gawky, rubbernecking, pratfalling Other Stepsister steals the show (particularly if it’s Myers), but Combes held her own with a Jean Harlow look and an affect that was sexy as well as (calculatedly) empty. They were partners; the end of the ball-scene second act even found them dancing together.   

As they did in 2005, Lorna Feijóo danced Cinderella and Carlos Molina the Prince on opening night. Feijóo is at her best in the kitchen and the garden, canoodling with her warming-pan dance partner, playing hopscotch, or whipping through her third-act fouetté sequence on the foot with the glass-slipper toe, the bare foot never touching the floor. Molina has the moral presence to ground Kudelka’s message, right down to the point where the Prince actually recognizes (or thinks he does) Cinderella in the kitchen before asking her to try on the slipper. His dancing is inconsistent; he and Feijóo together did well with the difficult sequence of lifts in their ballroom duet, but they didn’t create much of an emotional partnership. Kudelka’s choreography is appealing in a modest way. Yet there’s something missing in a production where the big choreographic moment finds the ballerina dancing on one foot.

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Related: Festival Ballet's emotional, sensual Carmen, Interview: Hilary Hahn, Dancing the night away, More more >
  Topics: Dance , Entertainment, Jean Harlow, Fille Mal Gardee,  More more >
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