In the Mariinsky Ballet’s production of Prokofiev’s Cinderella, you won’t find a pumpkin that turns into a carriage; nor will you find mice that turn into horses. What you will find is a fresh and sophisticated new interpretation of an old classic, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky in 2002.
The ballet begins with a drop that looks like an avant-garde metropolis filled with tall buildings. As it is lifted we are taken into a room in Cinderella’s Father’s house with tall, black metal staircases on each side of the stage. Her Stepmother with her two daughters Kubishka and Khudishka are sitting in chairs as hairdressers (Alexey Nedviga, Eduard Gusev, Alexander Fedorov) are styling their hair in preparation for the ball. While Cinderella’s Father (Andrei Yakovlev) drowns his sorrows in booze, Cinderella (Maria Shirinkina) is busy cleaning up the messes created by everyone around her.
…the Mariinsky Ballet’s ‘Cinderella’ is truly wonderful….Fresh and sophisticated.
Ekaterina Kondaurova is absolutely marvelous as the selfish and arrogant Stepmother. What made her performance so good was that her character infused dancing was not limited to just the arms and legs. Her facial expressions and comical twists and turns of the head gave details to her performance which made her a step above as the Stepmother.
Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky’s strongest attribute was his ability to infuse character into every dancers role. This was most successfully done when the slow-witted sisters, Kubishka (Ekaterina Ivannikova) and Khudishka (Margarita Frolova) were unable to learn the steps taught by the dance teachers (Nadezhda Batoeva, Islom Baimuradow) as they prepared for the ball. The tripping and falling and sliding was most comical!
Having pity on Cinderella’s sadness, Fairy-Tramp (Elena Bazhenova) appears. This is perhaps one of the more meaningful characters in the story since this fairy is not dressed in a beautiful gown and she doesn’t have a magic wand that turns mice into horses. Instead she pulls out a pair of glass slippers and a dress from one of her old and tattered bags. Not magical, but meaningful.
Seemingly out of place in the story and score are the Four Seasons: Spring (Ilya Petrov), Summer (Alexey Popov), Autumn (Maxim Zyuzin), and Winter (Andrey Solovyov). These four characters look like a cross between the cast members of a children’s TV show called Doodlebop’s and circus clown rejects from Ringling Bros. Circus. The purpose of the characters is to help with the transformation of Cinderella. Unfortunately, the whimsical characters stuck out like a sore thumb and didn’t really help to push the story forward. This is no fault of the dancers who did an admirable job with the roles they were given.
Maria Shirinkina in the title role as Cinderella danced with such feminine grace, that her fluid movements could be compared to that of silk blowing in the wind. Her Prince, played by Vladimir Shklyarow entered the stage strong and powerful, impressing the audience with a variety of leaps, jumps, and spins. Together, Maria and Vladimir were paired nicely; her grace and his strength.
Besides the dancing, a certain set piece was visually stunning. Hanging from the top of the center of the stage was a huge circular metal set piece, made to symbolize a clock. What made it special was that it would transform into a candle lit chandelier. The industrial set design by Ilya Utkin and Yevgeny Monakhov worked well with the costumes by Elena Markovskay which seemed to echo the 1920’s.
This adaptation of Cinderella is appropriate for the whole family, but is not geared towards young children. As dark and industrial as Alexei Ratmansky makes this production, he also frequently lightens up each scene with comedy as when dancers formed a conga line and when the stepsisters were fighting like sumo wrestlers. With its fresh and sophisticated new interpretation, the Mariinsky Ballet’s Cinderella is truly wonderful. In the end, Cinderella does get her prince and they all live happily ever after. Best of all, she didn’t need the help of mice to do it!
Running Time: 2 hours and 40 minutes with two, 15 minute intermissions.
The Mariinsky Ballet Presents Prokofiev’s Cinderella through October 21, 2012 at The Kennedy Center, 2700 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20566. For more information visit online. Please note, the leads in the cast varies from night to night.