|| The Patriot Ledger
|| March 18, 2014
|| Keith Powers
The Boston Ballet layers the romantic narrative with antic, vaudevillian humor in an expansive production of the classic fairytale.
The tale of Cinderella pervades almost every culture. Storybooks, operas, films and dramas have all revisited the rise of the dusty heroine from the hearth to the prince’s castle, each with subtle differences.
But Sir Frederick Ashton’s 1948 ballet, which the Boston Ballet stages now through March 23 at the Opera House, sidesteps subtlety, layering the romantic narrative with antic, vaudevillian humor. This visual comedy gets realized mainly through the two stepsisters, imagined by Ashton “en travesti” (in drag). They are roles he created with his own dancing talents in mind.
It adds up to a lot of humor, and a lot of touching romance, all marvelously rehearsed and danced in this expansive production. This is not the first “Cinderella” produced by the Boston Ballet, but Ashton’s classical treatment, long on sight gags and intricate ensemble geometries, is a welcome addition to the troupe’s repertory.
Misa Kuranaga took up the title role for Thursday’s opening night. (The role rotates through four principals during the play’s run.) Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio as the prince made for a typecast romantic couple. Their elegance and command was juxtaposed with the studied oafishness of stepsisters Boyko Dossev and Yury Yanowsky, who went about the difficult business of intentional clumsiness with professional aplomb (helped by some outstandingly hideous wardrobes, the credit for which goes to David Walker).
We all know the story. The fairy godmother (danced alluringly by Petra Conti), the glass slipper, the pumpkin, the midnight deadline – it’s all there. (The wicked stepmother makes no appearance in Ashton’s retelling.)
Highlights of the first act include the dancing lesson (and dress-up party) for the stepsisters, in which they try in vain to learn Ashton’s “Fred step” (his signature set of moves, from arabesque to pas-de-chat). Cinderella, alone later on with her dreams, copies it.
But the second act, the grand ball in the prince’s castle, serves as the ballet’s centerpiece. Cinderella’s dramatic entrance, en pointe down the central staircase, is the hallmark moment of the production. Kuranaga worked it to extremes of difficulty, relying entirely on Cirio’s hand to find the stairs, and she swept the room with a gaze of wonder. The magical moment was not the least bit undone by some tentative footsteps.
The ensemble work transforms this choreography. In Act 1, it’s the fairy godmother leading the four seasons and the 12 stars. In Act 2, Cirio and Kuranaga weave among textured sets featuring the prince’s cohorts and courtiers. In the finale, a slow waltz celebrates their reuniting.
The contrast between the precise delicacy of Kuranaga and Cirio, and the bumpy clumsiness of the stepsisters (supported equally by the jester, Avetik Karapetyan, and Cinderella’s hapless father, Roddy Doble) was underlined throughout. It worked almost flawlessly, with only the juggling scene seemingly overmanaged.
The sets, mainly changed through layers of hidden scrims, were effective, if not breathtaking. And the intricate beauty of the ensemble dances was a tribute to rehearsal director Malin Thoors. http://www.patriotledger.com/article/20140318/ENTERTAINMENT/140316514/12436/ENTERTAINMENT/?tag=1