allet West captured the essence of romance and dreams in their rendition of the timeless fairy tale Cinderella, which ran February 11 to 19 for Valentine season.
The ballet featured a number of the company's principal dancers, all of whom took turns playing key characters during the various nights that the ballet ran. On February 17, Michiyo Hayashi performed the role of Cinderella and proved herself an immensely talented dancer from Japan, deserving of her numerous awards in dance both nationally and internationally.
The ballet opened with a scene that immediately introduced the audience to the key figures in Cinderella's family. As can be expected, Cinderella is dressed in ragged clothes, and is seen sweeping near the fireplace while her wickedly jealous and uptight stepmother, played by Jennifer Robinson, works on a scarf that she is planning to wear to that evening's ball. The comedic elements of the ballet are immediately put into play as the audience realizes that Cinderella's stepsisters are not just ugly, but hideous. More importantly, the audience comes to realize that the stepsisters are, in actuality, played by men.
The ugly stepsisters are played by Michael Bearden, a featured soloist for Ballet West, and Nicholas Scott. The surprising element of the production was that the male dancers playing the female stepsisters did not overdo it, even in roles prone to exaggeration. Instead, they offered a great amount of comedy throughout the production, enabling the audience to forget that the stepsisters were really men. This resulted in a humorously convincing performance that earned bouts of laughter and applause throughout the entire production.
Following the introduction of the stepsisters, whose selfish and goofy behavior resulted in the ripping apart of the stepmother's scarf, Cinderella's father's subtle presence becomes known. Though he hates to see the way that his daughter is treated, it is soon discovered that his protests mean nothing to the overbearing stepmother. Cinderella is forced to clean, and must watch as her clumsy stepsisters are offered beautiful dresses and wigs for the dance that will take place later that evening.
After establishing Cinderella's plight, the scene introducing the fairy godmother--who was first a poor woman whom CInderella showed kindness--provides the audience with a variety of beautiful visual effects. The fairy godmother performs a beautiful solo while a number of dragon flies, performed by company dancers, lift her and carry her throughout the forest. After her number, a different dancer for each season appears, and performs a solo number while the backdrop changes to fit the appropriate season. The dancers are beautiful in their different costumes, and as the backdrop changes from season to season, each individual dancer offers her own touch to reiterate the changing season.
After this performance, Cinderella's rags suddenly transform into a beautiful pink and white tutu that glitters beneath the stage lights. Respect has to be given to Ballet West for their ability to smoothly transition into various scenes and costumes. Each change that took place happened just as gracefully as the dancers danced, allowing the audience to truly lose themselves within the production.
The rest of the scenes were performed as can be expected. Cinderella arrived at the ball in a white carriage that was drawn by dancers in white leotards with eerily realistic horse heads. Everyone at the dance was captivated by the mysterious woman, but more importantly, the Prince, played by Ballet West principal dancer and San Francisco native Christopher Ruud, seemed to know that his true love was arriving before anyone else, including the audience, knew that she was there.
From the moment of their meeting on, sparks seem to fly and the dancing grows to a level of intensity that forces the audience to simply watch in awe. The talents of Hayashi and Ruud were reinforced when they were dancing together. The end of the production featured a beautiful pas de deux, performed by Hayashi and Ruud.
The overall production of Cinderella was nothing short of beautiful. The atmosphere contained an element of romance that was played upon by the dancers. The production ran smoothly and accurately, allowing for an amazing experience enjoyed by all of those who were fortunate enough to attend.
Ballet West will once again present Cinderella in Ogden at the Browning Center at Weber State University on Friday, February 25th and Saturday, February 26th at 7:30 pm. To purchase tickets call (801) 399-9214.