In tackling Cinderella the world-renowned British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon went back to the source: the Brothers Grimm original story. In doing so, he made it his very own.
So, here Cinderella is helped in her household chores by “Fates:” four young lads in gold-painted faces, who may or may not be a product of her imagination, but prove immensely useful not only with the housework, but also with scenery shifting.
And the key assistance that moves the plot on comes not from a fairy-godmother but from the wishing tree Cinderella planted on her mother’s grave and watered with her tears. This idea provides designer Basil Twist with a marvellous opportunity, and he creates a spectacular tree that brings a colourful and joyous centrepiece to sections of the ballet.
The tree shelters a strange collection of woodland creatures that minister to Cinderella; and it is an assemblage of giant seedpods and other elements of nature (rather than Perrault’s pumpkin and mice) that turn into Cinderella’s carriage – also cleverly contrived by Basil Twist.
Meanwhile, in the Palace Prince Guillaume is not simply waiting for a wife, but rather railing against the stifling royal protocol, duties and obligations… Very modern and indeed very Dutch!
Served by Prokofiev’s magnificent score, over the years Cinderella has provided inspiration to many choreographers, including Britain’s own Frederick Ashton (the version danced by the Royal Ballet) and Matthew Bourne for his New Adventures troupe.
Now Wheeldon brings his characteristic flair and brilliance to this noble tradition. A supremely elegant choreographer, he uses the language of classical ballet but infuses it with a very fluid contemporary feel and an energy all his own. He also instils a lot of humour in the story, particularly in Act III and the trying on of Cinderella’s slipper.
The Dutch National Ballet is a good, technically proficient company, its corps and soloists well up to the challenges posed by Wheeldon’s choreography. First cast Cinderella is Dutch National Principal Anna Tsygankova (you may have seen her guesting as Kitri in Covent Garden’s production of Don Quixote last season). Her Prince is partner Matthew Golding, now a Principal with the Royal Ballet, but still a Guest Principal with the National Dutch Ballet.
Basil Twist is joined by Julian Crouch in the overall set and costumes design; lighting is by Natasha Katz and the production includes video projections designed by Daniel Brodie.
Wheeldon’s Cinderella for the Dutch National Ballet premièred in the Netherlands in 2012 to a rapturous reception from critics and public alike.
It has since been acquired by the San Francisco Ballet; and there, while balking a little at its length which is pushing three hours, critics were generally very positive. “This lavish production showcases Wheeldon’s fluid choreography and deft ensemble work,” was the verdict of bachtrack.com.
Review Cinderella ballet
Christopher Wheeldon's magical adaptation of Cinderella is filled with fairytale romance that makes the heart sore, with the added intrigue of the original darker Brothers Grimm story guiding young Cinders. Anna Tsygankova as the heroine dances with effortless grace and instantly garners the audience's affections. While Matthew Golding has all the refined Royal elegance needed for a suitable Prince Charming, the chemistry between the leads feels a little forced, despite their lovestruck pas de deux and the fact that they are a couple in real life (!).
Other stars which light up the Colisseum stage include Remi Wörtmeyer as Prince Guillaume's cavorting, mischievous friend and the fantastic 'ugly' sisters Wen Ting Guan and Nadia Yanowsky, who make a wonderful show of heavy-footed and clumsy dance moves that have been choreographed to perfection. The wicked stepmother Larissa Lezhnina is also a revelation, and brings comic relief in Act II with her hilariously timed drunken escapes at the Palace ball.
However, the real highlight must be at the end of Act I when Cinders' carriage erupts across the stage with her gorgeous gown billowing in the wind behind her, accelerating her towards the ball.
It is hard not to enjoy an adaptation of Cinderella and Christopher Wheeldon throws everything he has at this production with rich sentimentality and whimsical, romantic choreography that will melt even the sternest of serious dance hearts.
|What||Dutch National Ballet: Cinderella, London Coliseum|
English National Opera
London Coliseum, St Martin's Lane, London, WC2N 4ES | MAP
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
08 Jul 15 – 11 Jul 15, 2pm performances on the 9th and 11th
|Website||Click here to book via the Sadler's Wells website|