Dusting off Cinderella: An Old Favorite Gets a New Shine
Photography by Daniel Smyth
The story of Cinderella is timeless – a fairytale story of not just rags to riches, but of hope and the rewards that come from believing that you are worthy of a better life. Cincinnati Ballet will bring this story to life on Valentine’s Day weekend, revitalizing the performance that was artistic director and CEO Victoria Morgan’s first full-length ballet as a choreographer for Cincinnati Ballet. Because of its popularity, it has returned to the repertoire periodically for audiences to enjoy. “I think the theme of Cinderella is so compelling,” says Morgan. “We have a young girl who has been robbed of her mother and is left with a stepmother and stepsisters who make fun of her and abuse her. She has this vivid image in her mind of finding a better world for herself, and her imagination plays a key part. It’s a valuable lesson – the dream of changing your life and finding fulfillment. That imagination can lead to change.”
It’s an optimistic story that shows a character who is kind despite her circumstances, gentle even though she is treated with cruelty, and determined in a seemingly hopeless situation. Because this is a tale with themes that are always relevant, Cincinnati Ballet felt it was time for this production to return bigger and better – with new sets, updated costumes and more magic.
Although it’s been six years since Cinderella has been performed, the production promises to be vivid and full of new surprises. The set pieces have been given a makeover, many of the costumes are being refurbished and fans can delight in seeing what feels like a brand new production. “It was important for the visual aspects to be more intriguing and rich,” says Morgan. “We’ll have little puppet mice for Cinderella to dance with – that’s new. And we have a beautiful new coach and an exploding pumpkin to reveal it.”
The show promises to be visually spectacular and is welcoming for children and adults alike. Humorous moments are woven into the story alongside the magical events. Scenes featuring young dancers from the Cincinnati Ballet Otto M. Budig Academy create fresh touches that bring a youthful quality to the familiar tale. Each costume is being lovingly refurbished with a little TLC, to bring them back to the rich colors and decorative splendor they had when they were new.
“We spent the summer working on refurbishing these costumes – so about 20 labor weeks,” says Diana Vandergriff-Adams, wardrobe mistress for Cincinnati Ballet. “We try to keep ahead of the game around here. We know when costumes will need to be used, and we’ll slate out time to replace or fix them in increments.” Vander- griff-Adams and her team have done a wonderful job with costumes that are decades old, and that need to be modified for quick changes. “We have a lot of quick changes in Cinderella, and one person may be playing multiple parts,” she says.
Cinderella’s dress has been completely redone, however. The old version featured a chiffon skirt that Morgan didn’t feel fit the new show. Now, Cinderella’s gown sparkles with multiple layers of sheer, colored and sequined fabric that is sure to move like a dream onstage. “We’re lucky enough to be in a place of financial stability,” says Morgan. “PNC is offering us major support as well. It takes a village to build a new Cinderella. Our board and internal team agree this was such an important ballet in our repertoire, and felt we needed to bring it back with added layers of luster and magic.”
The music has been changed slightly, a new prince solo sequence has been inserted, puppets accompany Cinderella as her mice friends, a spectacular new carriage appears and most sections will have new, updated choreography. While the aesthetic remains similar and the themes that Morgan loves so much remain intact, the piece is certainly not the same one audiences may remember from its last staging six years ago.
“In a way it almost feels like a completely new piece,” says Morgan. “Previously, everything was centered on stage and kept to the traditional style of dance. Now, we’re playing with those elements. Things don’t have to be exactly balanced – a shift in set placement changes how the mental focus of the movement and information happens. Those subtle and yet monumental changes will also make it feel like a new ballet.”
And, of course, while Cinderella and her prince may be the stars of the show, audience members can expect plenty of hilarity from characters like Cinderella’s evil stepsisters. “The crazy sister characters are played by men, and the characters themselves are different every time we do this show, because we love to pull from the actors’/dancers’ personalities,” Morgan says.
Cinderella runs February 12-14 at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. For ticket and performance information, call 513.621.5282 or visit their website at cballet.org.