After the shocking news that nearly half of the dancers of the Pennsylvania Ballet were leaving, the company’s fans returned to the Academy of Music with high anticipation after the summer break. The first program of the 53rd season is Ben Stevenson’s CINDERELLA, a version that was first premiered by the National Ballet of Washington in 1970 and by the PA Ballet in 1995.
In the context of the recent movement in multiple form of art to reinvent fairy tales as more reality oriented or psychologically deepened texts, Ben Stevenson’s choreography might seem too simple or blunt, lucking insights into each character’s nature and emotions. Yet picking the ballet shows the brave and caring intention of the artistic director Angel Corella to the company and the Philadelphia ballet fans.
Despite being one of the most famous fairy tales, Cinderella has been the weaker one in the field of ballet compare to well-known full-lengths Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, or The Nutcracker. Prokofiev’s score is enchanting and dramatic, but it’s not simple nor painless for dancers to get a grip on unless both the choreography and the dancers are inspired and technically skilled. In the opening night performance, the dancers made it clear that they are ready for the challenge.
Forget about some hiccups caused by the choreography—the cowardly father who does little but fill space of the stage or the stepmother, there just as a contrast to the pure and beautiful Cinderella to get the story moving—not only the soloist but every single dancer on the stage devotedly and enthusiastically performed their roles in the lively fairy tale. The fairy godmother, danced by Sara Michelle Murawski, and the Fairies of Four Seasons (Yuka Iseda for Spring, Lillian Di Piazza for Summer, Mayara Pineiro for Autumn, and Dayesi Torriente for Winter) were expressive and elegant while managing the highly technical pas.
Alexander Peters scored a strong and impressive comeback as Jester after the unfortunate injury which caused his absence from most of the last season. Charles Askegard and Ian Hussey as the stepsisters overkilled the male dancers acting the female role, but showed another clear contrast to the gracefulness of the world of Cinderella and the fairies, while bringing lots of giggles to enliven the theater.
Oksana Maslova is perfect match for the title role. A graceful and beautiful dancer, she has a power to bring out the emotions of the character. Her Cinderella—a dreaming, kindhearted, and beautiful girl who doesn’t give up in her miserable life—shows such spark the moment she meets her prince and falls in love. Her pas de deux with the noble and elegant prince (Sterling Baca) almost reminds me of the passionate and dramatic balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet that were performed by so many legendary dancers.
The program is in the theater till October 23, featuring different dancers as the title roles and the soloists. Be enchanted.
[The Academy of Music, 240 S Broad St] October 13-23, 2016; paballet.org.