Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pretty Pretty Princess

This Friday, I joined dozens of princess-clad little girls at the Mondavi Center for the State Ballet Theatre of Russia's production of Cinderella. As a special treat, the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Michael Morgan, brought Prokofiev's score to life. The house was filled to capacity, with a line of people outside waiting for cancellations.

The company's dancers seemed to be having fun with the familiar fairy tale. The stepsisters had wonderful comedic timing and boldly pushed their technique to the edge to fulfil their bold and irreverent characters. Their mother, performed by a man in drag, also got several laughs with her physical absurdity and antics.

But it was Valeria Antisiferova, as Cinderella, and Ivan Alekseyev, as the Prince, who wowed the audience with their grace and poise.

As expected from a "story ballet," Vladimir Vasliev's choreography drew heavily on pantomime, but he managed to make this sometimes contrived "acting" seem more natural and accessible to today's audiences. And his movement had a wonderful breath and flow. While I am more familiar with the more formal neoclassical ballets of Balanchine (I grew up watching the New York City Ballet), it was great fun to get lost in the elaborate sets, the richly colored costumes and expressive dancing.

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