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Russian National Ballet's Cinderella

Dancing Master, Stepmother, Cinderella, and Ugly Sisters
in Cinderella, Russian National Ballet Theater
The Russian National Ballet Theater brought one of its multiple-ballet touring extravaganzas to the George Mason University Center for the Arts last weekend. The company, founded by Elena Radchenko, a former principal dancer at the Bolshoi, maximizes the number of performances on its tours, tending to present as many audience favorites as possible to pack the house. Although this performance on Friday night felt, as a result, perfunctory and routine, the strategy paid off for the company, as lots of parents with their little girls turned out to see the RNBT's Cinderella. It was the second ballet for Miss Ionarts, after her first experience with The Nutcracker in December, and she loved it in spite of its shortcomings.

Many of the RNBT choreographies are the classic ones by Marius Petipa, which have been recycled and updated by many companies. This Cinderella was originally choreographed by Rostislav Zakharov, for the premiere of Sergei Prokofiev's fabulous score at the Mariinsky Theater in 1945. The saddest part of this performance was that that brilliant music was not performed by an orchestra, which has been part of previous tours, but played on the sound system from a recording. Not only did that result in an unsatisfactory canned sound, adding to the impression of the dancers phoning in the performance, but the transitions between tracks was unfortunately clunky, chopping up the musical continuity, too. Another sign of financial hard times.

The women, both in the corps and among the soloists, were generally stronger than the men, beginning with the attractive Cinderella of Marianna Chemalina, girlishly delicate yet flirtatious. When she combined with the five fairies (the Fairy Godmother and the four Seasons), the ensemble was the strongest, elegantly unified in line and action. The Dancing Master of Marat Abdrakhmanov was athletic and graceful, while the tall Prince of Ruslan Mukhambetkaliev started off strong in Act II but seemed to weaken toward the end, with buoyant leaps but his lifts losing some of their ease of motion. Some of the best parts of this choreography are the comic relief, the Stepmother (a drag role) and two Ugly Sisters, who danced with burlesque broadness. The sets were fairly plain, a necessary evil of the touring company, but the costumes were appealing, especially for the two leads, not least the gorgeous white gown Cinderella wpre to the ball, which put stars in Miss Ionarts' eyes until she fell asleep in the car on the way home.

The next ballet event in Washington is the Washington Ballet's production of Peter Pan, directed by Septime Webre, at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater (April 1 to 5).


Anonymous said...

Incidentally, about a year ago the Washington Ballet also performed Prokofiev's Cinderella, and it was also to a sound recording rather than a live orchestra. It was very frustrating for the same reasons you mentioned here.

Charles T. Downey said...

I've heard this complaint about Washington Ballet numerous times. I wish that Web sites and other promotional materials would make this situation absolutely plain and clear.