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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New View, 18 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Prokofiev: Cinderella [Anna Tsygankova, Matthew Golding, Larissa Lezhnina] [Opus Arte: OA1114D] [DVD] [2013] [NTSC] (DVD)
Christopher Wheeldon's take on 'Cinderella' brings a new focus to Cinderella herself, and illumines the story imaginatively. Taking elements from the Grimm brothers' version of the tale, Wheeldon replaces the Fairy Godmother of Perrault's version with four Fates, danced by four men, who emerge from the tree which grows over Cinderella's mother's grave, watered by her tears. These four spirits accompany her virtually throughout the ballet, and provide some stunning choreographic pictures. The sisters are also re-created in a new way: we lose the pantomime dame approach of Ashton (which is delightful, but not really repeatable) in favour of two young, attractive girls who are also, like Cinderella, caught in a second marriage. The stepmother is still undeniably the bitch of old (apologies to dogs), as is one of the sisters, but the other, younger, sister is actually sympathetic to Cinderella, and tries to show it even when forced to be unkind through her older sister's and mother's bullying tactics. In a new twist (spoiler here!) the young sister also finds a lover in the Prince's friend, and so there are two happy endings.

Anna Tsygankova as Cinderella is a captivating dancer -- strong, delicate, elegant, and coltish by turns -- with a blazing technique combining the tensility of her Russian training and the characterizing suppleness of her later European career. It would be a treat to see her dance Nikiya or Kitri one day. Matthew Golding as the prince (also given a back-story for the first time) is strong and technically excellent, with a fine bravura line in his leaps. My only qualification (and it is not his fault) is that the occasional close-ups don't do him any favours: he has a generalized expression showing profound emotion which makes him look slightly agonized, and his California surfer looks don't help. But some coaching will help the expressions, I expect, and his dancing really is very fine indeed.

The sets and costumes, with intelligent and unobtrusive use of projections, are spectacular, and the use of the stage, with some telling diagonal rows of columns in the court scenes, is expansive and continually engages the eye. In the end it is the choreography which tells. Wheeldon's earlier works like 'Commedia' and 'Fool's Paradise' (and when are we to have a film of them, please?) made on his earlier company Morphoses, showed him to be a choreographer of depth and breathtaking versatility; in 'Cinderella, Christopher Wheeldon is showing his mettle again as he only hinted at doing in his 'Alice in Wonderland'. However delightful Alice is (and it certainly is) it relies far more on staging and props to make its effects, putting the dancing somewhat in the background on occasion. 'Cinderella', by contrast, is a dancer's ballet, and is utterly brilliant. The pas de deuxs here are characterful and glittering, the dancers' handling their considerable difficulties with aplomb and taking the movements into their characters in a way too infrequently seen. Even the smallest parts are finely cast, with the Dutch company providing their ingrained intelligence and dramatic sense to the whole. Finally, the comedic bits are not overdone or mawkish, as they so often can be, but are genuinely amusing.

I love Ashton's 'Cinderella', and will never let it go, but Christopher Wheeldon's is a masterly new look at the piece. Its nearest colleague is probably Jean-Christoff Maillot's 'Cinderella' for his Ballet de Monte Carlo, which takes the story into greater psychological depth -- especially in the relationship between Cinderella and her father -- but lacks the warmth of Wheeldon's portraiture. Nureyev's 'Hollywood' re-working for the Paris Opera Ballet, despite its superb dancing and a heart-breaking first act with Agnes Letestu in the lead first danced by Sylvie Guillem, is over-produced and slightly camp. Anyone who loves the old tale of the girl who is brought from the ashes to the palace will find much to enjoy in Ashton's Royal Ballet version, Maillot's with Monte Carlo, David Bintley's with the Royal Birmingham -- and now, perhaps to crown them all, Christopher Wheeldon's magical, captivating, and wholehearted ballet. Most highly recommended.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Oct 2013 12:39:54 BDT
Aryanire says:
it would indeed be a treat to see Anna as Nikiya, but she's already danced Kitri and I think there's a dvd of that as well. You should see it, it's marvelous.
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