Sir Frederick Aston used the original Brothers Grimm story to create a three-act ballet which is a masterpiece of humor, magic and surprising twists. The result is the Joffrey Ballet’s new production,”Cinderella,” a haunting and mature story that captivates the audience from the moment the curtain lifts.
The humor started the minute the ugly step-sisters took the stage. The step-sisters appeared to be bumbling, awkward women, but are actually male dancers. When David Gombert and Rory Hohenstein arrived on stage during opening night, they embodied all the mean things you ever thought about the ugly step-sisters. They stumbled when they danced. They lacked the grace and charm Cinderella embodied. It all came together to create wonderful comic relief throughout the ballet. The audience was mesmerized when Gombert and Hohenstein were on stage. The dancers made it look so easy, even as the audience marveled at how hard it must have been for the wonderfully talented dancers to pull off the performance in pumps and hoop skirts.
The magic was woven throughout the story, from the moment the curtains were drawn until the moment Cinderella tried on the glass slipper. Victoria Jaiani created a character who seemed so delicate that you thought she would blend into the shadows. When she was at home, tending to her chores and serving her step-sisters, it was exactly what happened. Home was not a cheery, happy place. It was a dark and unhappy place in which Cinderella was at the mercy of her step-sisters. Her father seemed overwhelmed, at times brushing off Cinderella to make his step-daughters happy. It wasn’t until she enters the ball that she came out of the shadows and into her dream life. It was no wonder that the step-sisters didn’t recognize her at the ball. Cinderella was a version of herself she hardly dared to dream when she was at home.
One surprising twist was the step-mother’s absence. When we thought about Cinderella as we waited for the show to start, the evil step-mother came to mind. She was missing from this story, with Cinderella’s father taking center stage. He was not a mean, evil man in any way. There were times when you felt sorry for him as he didn’t seem to know how to connect with his daughter.
Another surprise came when the Jester, Derrick Agnoletti, arrived on stage. His athleticism turned the stage into his own playground. His jumps inspired “oohs and awes” from the audience as he flew mid-air into the splits. His character added a wonderful sense of whimsy to the royal ball — and much admiration from the audience.
When Sir Frederick Aston wrote Cinderella, England was struggling to recover from the vicious WWII bombings that threatened to destroy the country. Story after story told of the overwhelming despair that settled on British citizens in the wake of the enormous task of rebuilding their country. Sir Aston’s gift was to give the British people a story filled with hope, comedy, love and redemption. It is a gift that continues to resonate with today’s audiences, especially with the strength each Joffrey Ballet dancer infused his/her character with throughout the performance.
For more information about the performance schedule or to purchase tickets, visit http://joffrey.org/cinderella. The show closes May 22, so don’t wait to purchase your tickets.
Shari writes about life with twins at Two Times the Fun. Image courtesy of Cheryl Mann for The Joffrey Ballet.
Disclosure: I did attend the opening night media performance. My opinions and words are my own.
Category: Shari's Corner