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SLIPPER FITS POOR CORPS GIRL.(Spoerli, Heinz)(Engels, Johan)(Fedoseyev, Vladimir)(Prokofiev, Sergei)(Varga, Jozef)(Blanc, Nicolas)(Chan, Kinsun)(Review) (dance review)

Dance Magazine; 8/1/2000; KOEGLER, HORST



It seems rather strange that nobody has hit on the idea before: Namely, to turn Cinderella into a poor and wretched corps de ballet girl in a provincial company, exploited and humiliated by the wicked ballet mistress who favors her own two daughters--with the Good Fairy as a haggard rehearsal pianist. It is she, though, who becomes Cinderella's only intimate friend and who presents her with a pair of ballet slippers, thus enabling her to attend the benefit ballet gala. There the star ballerino becomes aware of her talents in spite of the attempts of the ballet mistress to direct his attention to her daughters. He recognizes her hidden ballerina potential, and when she vanishes at the stroke of midnight, losing one shoe, he starts his search for her by roaming the world's great ballet companies. First he goes to the Moscow Bolshoi, where Don Quixote is being performed; next to the Paris Opera, where he hits on La Bayadere, and finally to London, where The Royal Ballet is in the middle of a Sleeping Beauty performance. One day he finds himself in a studio where Cinderella has given up any hope of a successful career. Now the happy end cannot be delayed: The shoe fits, and the ballerino has found his ideal partner.

This is the plot of Heinz Spoerli's Zurich Ballet Cinderella production, which turned out to be a big success at its premiere and must rank as one of the danciest stagings Prokofiev's popular ballet has ever received.

Sumptuously designed and dressed by Johan Engels, the ballet's main sponsor was Switzerland's leading silk manufacturer. Lovingly conducted by Vladimir Fedoseyev, one of today's leading Russian music directors, it is lavishly choreographed by Spoerli, who makes the most of the purely classical sections of the drama, contrasting them efficiently with the en travesti grotesqueries of the ballet mistress and her spoiled daughters. He is brilliantly inventive in the character numbers, and also handles all the miniature solos and smaller ensembles, as well as the sweeping corps dances, with unerring panache and wonderful musical sensitivity. The only jarring moments happen during the ballerino's journey around the world, where Prokofiev's music badly fits the chosen passages from the Petipa classics. Otherwise, it is a dramatically cogent production.

Compliments go to the company: young, eager, nice-looking, well-disciplined and dancing with vigor (and without any sign of Swiss complacency), its boys bursting with unbridled energy. Though Jozef Varga as the ballet mistress and her supposed-daughters Nicolas Blanc and Kinsun Chan milk their travesti parts for all the belly laughs, their rich dancing communicates a good deal of tongue-in-cheekness; their humor has a certain Chaplinesque quality. Michael Revie, one of the company's technical whiz kids, contributes a devastating study of vain snobbishness as the ballet master. Alexandar Alexandrov, Jason Nicoll and Alister Noblet perform an outrageously dressed trio of oranges, while Karine Seneca manages to invest her modest part as the rehearsal pianist with warmly radiant humanity.

The two leads, though, are on loan from English National Ballet (Spoerli occasionally likes to garnish his pieces with luminary guests, so earlier this season we had Ethan Stiefel appearing in the local production of Twyla Tharp's Push Comes to Shove): Agnes Oaks and Thomas Edur as Cinderella and--well, let us call him, matching her name--Splenderoso (Prince). She is as touching and vulnerable in rags as she is majestically radiant as the future ballerina assoluta of the still-to-be-founded Global Ballet; he, from his first entry in poor Cinderella's dream, is the born cavalier from the dancing branch of the Romanov dynasty.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Dance Magazine, Inc.

This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan.  All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group.

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