Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella. A second look

7 December 2013 (matinee), Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House

Taking a second look at Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella was something of a swings and roundabouts experience. The gains were special, the losses of course a little disappointing.

Seeing Leanne Stojmenov as Cinderella and Daniel Gaudiello as the Prince after they had performed those roles over and over in Melbourne and again in the first few Sydney shows indicated how well they had grown into their parts. Their pas de deux in particular were seamless, expressive and beautifully executed with hardly a slip anywhere. Gaudiello once again showed what an exceptional artist he is as he fell head over heels for his Cinderella, and what a good technician he is as well.

Daniel Gaudiello in Cinderella. The Australian Ballet, 2013. Photo: Jeff Busby
Daniel Gaudiello as the Prince in Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella. The Australian Ballet 2013. Photo: © Jeff Busby

Stojmenov’s dancing showed how much she had absorbed the choreography into her very being. The beautiful way in which she conveyed the subtlety and nuances of Ratmansky’s vocabulary was an absolute delight. In particular she had captured the beauty and fluidty of Ratmansky’s arm movements with their distinctive swing and sway through space, and I also especially enjoyed her solo in the last act where she recalled the time she had with her Prince at the ball in the previous act.

I was also interested to hear David McAllister, in his public program conversation with David Hallberg after the show, that Ratmansky used the word ‘say’ rather than ‘do’ when setting his choreography on the dancers—‘you go over there and say such and such’. His emphasis on expression rather than simply execution is a sure reason why all the cast, but Stojmenov in particular, carry the storyline of Cinderella so well.

Another gain was seeing Eloise Fryer—there was an unexpected cast change announced just before the curtain went up—as the Dumpy Stepsister. She has a terrific sense of comedy and carried off the awkward and often hilarious choreography with great style. It was a huge romp and Ingrid Gow as the Skinny Stepsister really had to work hard to keep up with her.

The biggest loss was having to fit the show onto the stage of the Opera Theatre. I try not to make too many comments in this vein as it does nothing in the end. But in the case of Cinderella it resulted in a real loss I thought. The theatrical trick of a proscenium arch within a proscenium arch that was so clear in Melbourne was scarcely apparent in Sydney and the crammed-up feeling of the domestic scenes was unfortunate. And, while memory plays tricks I know, it seemed to me that Gaudiello’s choreography had been cut in the scenes where he travels the world searching for the owner of the slipper. Maybe I just missed some of those grands jetes in a circle and the spectacular finish where he jumped into the arms of his cortege of male friends. I’d be more than happy to be corrected!

I also missed Lynette Wills as the Fairy Godmother. While Jasmin Durham did a perfectly good job in the role, Wills brought a wide experience to her performance giving the role a strength of characterisation and sense of mystery that was missing in Sydney. I had also been looking forward to seeing once more those characters from the solar system who transport Cinderella to the ball but, while being closer had its advantages, the costumes are quite remarkable, being closer also made the sequence look a little too jumbled—too many characters that were too hard to identify individually.

But more than anything I thought the magical transformations that made the Melbourne opening so spectacular were lessened in Sydney. I was further back in the auditorium in Melbourne so maybe that had an effect but I suspect it was something else.

Nevertheless, Cinderella remains in my mind a very classy, strongly European-looking, beautifully-lit production that I look forward to seeing again and again.

Michelle Potter, 8 December 2013

My original post, and a healthy variety of comments from others, is at this link. See also my comments on David Hallberg’s performance as the Prince published by DanceTabs.

8 thoughts on “Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella. A second look

  1. After waiting what seemed like an age, I have finally seen Cinderella at the Opera House, and enjoyed it very much.

    What impressed me first was the music, which I am not familiar with but which I found quite lovely.
    Ratmansky’s choreography always came across to me as very musical, although sometimes I felt that he gave the most obvioius interpretation of it. Overall I found the choreography to be a bit mixed – I most enjoyed the many pas de deux for Cinderell/the Prince, and some of the act 2 corps scenes were fun. When Cinderella was remembering her night at the ball in a solo however, it kind of looked like she was making fun of the step-sisters?!? Just some odd choreographic quirks there.

    I actually really liked the scenery and overall design concept – I though it was all quite harmonious with the music and choreography. Perhaps it was due to a change in seat (circle rather than stalls), but I didn’t notice the overcrowding of the stage as much as I did in Swan Lake. Thinking back though, it’s possible that Adam Bull felt a bit restricted in the Prince’s solos where I noticed his jetes en tournants were not delivered at the standard of the rest of his dancing. The biggest revelation for me in terms of design was the use of projections – for the first time I found that they added something to the design and the ballet as a whole. Previously I have always thought that various ballets would have been better off without projections, but I especially liked the repition of the portrait in act 1, and the stars projected onto the stage floor throughout.

    I loved the concept of the universe being the ultimate measure of time, and therefore the stars and planets transforming Cinderella for the ball – I found this quite magical, although the various solos and trios didn’t always stand out choreographically.

    I though Lana Jones’s interpretation of Cinderella grew throughout the evening until the final act when she really was giving everything she had to the pas de deux – her acting overshadowed Bull somewhat, although he had some beautiful moments of line/balance/technique. I agree that Eloise Fryer was fantastic as Dumpy, and the overall quality of the performance was very high.

    I’m disappointed that I missed seeing Daniel Gaudiello – having been blown away by his recent stint in Paquita, I really wanted to see him in this. If only I could choose tickets based on cast…

    I have been trying to decide why I enjoyed this ballet so much more than Murphy’s Romeo and Juliet, which I disliked intensly. I think maybe it was that Ratmansky and Kaplan didn’t seem to be taking themselves too seriously? I laughed at the cartoon projection while the Prince travelled the world, whereas I cringed at R+J’s various scenes. Also, while I didn’t always like Ratmansky’s choreography, I did always find it organic to the music and story whereas I find Murphy’s to be very cliched and often awkward.

    Overall, a very enjoyable night out!

  2. Thanks for your comments Sarah. We may disagree on some points (which is absolutely fine of course) but I am really pleased that we agree about Eloise Fryer. She is definitely someone to watch.

    It is good to hear an opinion about another cast as both times I have seen the show I have seen the Stojmenov/Gaudiello casting. I am not complaining of course as the work was set on this partnership. However, I am looking forward to seeing Amber Scott with David Hallberg later in the season.

  3. I will be interested to hear Michelle’s reactions to the Scott/Hallberg casting. In Melbourne I only got to see the Gaudiello/Stojmenov and Jackson/Jones pairing. And what a world of difference there was between Daniel and Kevin. The latter’s interpretation was far more effortlessly aristocratic in bearing, interaction with friends and courtiers and general demeanor. The so called “rock-star” approach of Gaudiello seemed just as valid though, but I was struck by how different the 2 interpretations were.

  4. Apologies Michelle. It was Kevin Jackson/Leanne Stojmenov that I saw in Melbourne. Eastoe was cast as his Cinderella but on the night {Wed Sept 25]Leanne danced the role.

  5. Thanks Adrian. I think there have been injuries and some illnesses in the company and as a result cast changes have occurred on the night as it were. But it is interesting to hear your thoughts on Kevin Jackson’s interpretation. I would have liked to have seen it. I guess what I thought worked especially with Gaudiello’s approach – and it was indeed ‘rock star’ as you say to begin with – was that it set the scene for a very nice contrast in his manner when he met and fell for Cinderella.

  6. My thoughts on the Hallberg/Scott pairing will appear shortly on DanceTabs. Suffice it to say for the moment that it was not what I had hoped for, despite Hallberg’s absolutely amazing technique. I will post the link to the DanceTabs piece as soon as it is published.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *