July 11, 2015
The American Ballet Theater closed their 75th anniversary season with
Frederick Ashton’s “Cinderella.” The ballet production swerves slightly in story from
the fairy tale known by most, but the general idea resonates the same. Newly
promoted principal dancer (the first Filipino-American principal with the company)
Stella Abrera danced the title role in the July 4th matinee performance. Her prince
was the dashing soloist Joseph Gorak.
In the first act, Cinderella is seen by the fireplace. Her stepsisters, two male
dancers in drag, hob knob with one another, their clumsy dancing provides some
comic relief for the children in the audience. In this version, there is no stepmother,
instead a sheepish father tries to keep his family going, but fails at taming the sisters
and their outlandish actions.
At one point, an old beggar woman finds her way into the house and
Cinderella shows her kindness by offering her some food. As the invitations for the
ball are sent out and the stepsisters get ready, Cinderella is left to dance with her
broom. The woman re-appears and turns into the fairy godmother, danced by the
savvy Devon Teuscher. She presents four fairies each representing a season;
bestowing gifts that help Cinderella make her way to the ball. The effervescent
Skylar Brandt danced the Summer fairy. She was sharp and aware with each step
prick like and exciting.
In the ball scene, the lighting is dim for the entrance of a fairy-tale worthy
ballerina, but Abrera captures the demure elegance of the character and charms
with every step. Gorak, whose technique is unparalleled to most in the company, is
breathtaking with each leap and point of his foot. In their main pas de
deux, the two make a refreshing match, uneasy in some moments but always able to
create a strong finish with each phrase. Abrera’s maturity and finesse molds well
with Gorak’s youth and eagerness.
Ashton’s choreography is ornate and exact. It has all of the elements of the
typical classical ballet but uses some contemporary aspects in timing and dynamic
that livens the movement. Paired with Prokofiev’s luscious score, the timeline of the
three-act ballet has a sense of seamlessness and novelty, all in one a ballet that one
hopes ABT would hold onto.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Maoon