“Cendrillon” (“Cinderella”), a quirky yet moving take on the story, has far more in common with “Roméo et Juliette” than with a typical lavish fairy-tale ballet.
Magic gold dust shimmers over Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Cendrillon” (“Cinderella”), a quirky yet moving take on the fairy tale choreographed by Jean-Christophe Maillot (whose stark, passionate “Roméo et Juliette” has become a company staple). It covers the beautifully undulating limbs of a fairy who bears a haunting resemblance to Cinderella’s late mother — a similarity that doesn’t go unnoticed by Cinderella’s father. And it delicately coats the feet (no glass slippers here) of Cinderella herself, who goes to the ball in a white slipdress once worn by her mother, and who dances in a happy daze, as if her sparkling feet were bewitched.
Those expecting the traditional pumpkin coach and princess gowns may be taken aback by this production, which has far more in common with “Roméo et Juliette” than with a typical lavish fairy-tale ballet. (“Roméo” was created for Maillot’s Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo in 1996; “Cendrillon” three years later.) Ernest Pignon-Ernest’s set design, like his for “Roméo,” features an abstract series of movable walls; here they look, appropriately, like pages torn from a book. Jérôme Kaplan’s costumes range from sexy (the stepmother and stepsisters wear corsets, and little else) to simple: that white dress, seen in Cinderella’s arms as she grieves her lost mother, and worn by the mother in a dreamlike remembrance. And the movement, particularly the Cinderella/Prince pas de deux, reminds us of “Roméo’s” windblown depiction of first love.
This ballet also shares with “Roméo et Juliette” a shivery Prokofiev score (elegantly performed by PNB’s orchestra) and an uncanny way of tapping into emotion; of sweeping the audience up into its characters’ journey. This version of Cinderella is less focused on romance than on loss, and the character of the mother (shown in dreams, and danced by the same ballerina as the Fairy) is central. When the heroine dances with her prince, the Fairy/Mother dances next to her – partnering Cinderella’s wondering father. The final pas de deux goes not to the young couple, but to the dream one: the father dancing with his lost wife, holding her one last time.
Pacific Northwest Ballet: ‘Cendrillon’
Through Feb. 12, McCaw Hall, Seattle; tickets from $30 (206-441-2424 or pnb.org).
All was beautifully danced at Friday’s opening, with Noelani Pantastico as an enchantingly innocent Cinderella, James Moore as her smitten Prince, Seth Orza as the brooding father, Lesley Rausch as a spiky stepmother and guest artist April Ball in the mesmerizing dual role of Fairy/Mother. This may not be the Cinderella you’re expecting — but its emotional impact, particularly in its moving final image, is unexpectedly magical.
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