February 20, 2016
Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Cinderella is simple and beautiful storytelling. Larger than life walls, constructed to resemble pieces of paper, make up the simple set, enhanced throughout by mirrors and projections. Set to Prokofiev’s original score, this Cinderella story has, not a twist, but an added layer of romance. Along with Cinderella and her Prince, the love between Cinderella's Father and Mother is brought to the forefront. In Maillot’s story the mother is also the Fairy, dipped in gold glitter, that leads Cinderella to her destiny. A poignant duet between the Father, played Alvaro Prieto, and the Mother/Fairy, Mimoza Koike, begins and ends the performance adding layers of mature love and grief to the emotional journey of the work.
Given that this is a time-worn tale, what makes this re-telling feel fresh is the bold character choices for each role, discovered through movement and aided by costuming.
The most notable choice is the decisive use of glitter. The Fairy is covered head to toe in gold glitter, to the point where any dance who interacts with her is left with her subtle glittery marks-- touches of magic. Glitter is also the mechanism by which Cinderella’s feet are decorated. Dancer Anja Behrend is the only female character who does not don the classic ballet pointe shoes, so to memorably adorn her feet before the ball, she is dipped into a bowl of lentils laced with glitter reminiscent of the Fairy. This touch adds a striking beauty, while keeping Cinderella simple and youthful.
Cinderella projects innocences and beauty, but all of the dancers inhabit their characters remarkably, particularly Maude Sabourin as the evil Stepmother. Sexy and manipulative, it is easy to believe that the good hearted Father would fall prey to this woman’s love. It is through the acting of the cast and Malliot’s choreography that each character lives so fully onstage. Maillot’s choreography is difficult to define as he lives in both the worlds of classical and contemporary. The Fairy with her spritely quick movements, the stepmother’s sharp and sultry turns, even the Mannequins, who are enchanted into acting out a mini-Cinderella story in a grotesque, cartoonish fashion, manage to grip the audience and convince them to care.
It is challenging to select a highlight from the evening's performance, but if forced to I would be remiss if I did not praise the duet between Cinderella and her Prince, portrayed by Stephan Bourgond. At first meeting, the Prince sticks his bum towards the audience and continues in insolent, immature fashion leading up to the entrance of our leading lady. It almost seems as if Cinderella is too good for him-- I was not rooting for them at first. However, from the second they first touch everything changes. Watching this unique Pas-de-duex felt like falling in love for the first time. Every touch charged the room with energy and excitement. The way the two dancers smiled, laughed and bounded around the space with each other, it felt carefree, careful, exuberant, young, and emotionally honest.
Les Ballet de Monte Carlo, lived up to their stellar reputation and with a running time of 2 hours, fitting this performance into your weekend may be the perfect thing to do.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Annie Woller