National Ballet of Canada

May 8, 2004

National Ballet of Canada
Hummingbird Centre

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

May 8–16, 2004

Reviewed by Paula Citron


Prokofiev’s challenging score for Cinderella is considered one of his most ravishing, but it is also one of his most complex. Underneath its beauty lies a sarcastic, even abrasive undertone that is often at odds with the slender story, and it is this innocent/sophisticated dichotomy that most choreographers fail to capture. Artistic Director James Kudelka’s new version for The National Ballet of Canada succeeds because of his innate music/dance symbiosis, which finds the right balance between the bitter and the sweet. Also embedded in this ballet is Kudelka’s gift of delineating character and narrative through movement without resorting to mime. More to the point, the talented NBC dancers understand well the intricacies of the director’s choreographic inclinations and can interpret his complex patterns and footwork with panache.

Keying into Prokofiev’s eccentric orchestration, Kudelka gives the pivotal roles of the stepsisters well-defined personalities through an original distortion of classical technique. One (Jennifer Fournier) has pretensions of grandeur, while her pathetic, nearsighted sibling (Rebekah Rimsay) is in her tailwind. Their choreography clearly renders their personality differences while turning them into contortionists to display their ineptness. When their hapless paid escorts (Etienne Lavigne and Piotr Stanczck) partner them, the music propels the hilarious quartet into more twists and turns than a pretzel factory.

In similar sharp focus is Kudelka’s pas de deux for Cinderella (Sonia Rodriguez) and Prince Charming (Guillaume Côté). While their first meeting is full of the sweetness of innocence, their sophisticated partnering after their wedding captures erotic rapture. And the solo choreography for the fairies who dress Cinderella for the ball—Blossom, Petal, Moss, and Twig, performed by Je-an Salas, Julie Hay, Tina Pereira, and Tanya Howard—collectively represents a musical ode to the varying moods of the four seasons, as Prokofiev intended. Choreographic invention fills the “Around the World” sequence, which some choreographers are loath to touch; the prince and his officers, with a great display of Russian bravura, dash off to exotic locations in search of the missing shoe and encounter a kaleidoscope of women in character turns.

In short, Kudelka’s Cinderella proves that he can make movement speak volumes, to both adults and children. Designer David Boechler’s gorgeous sets and costumes, evoking Art Deco, 1930s Vienna, simply gild the lily.

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