The Royal Ballet offers a mirthful ‘Cinderella’“Cinderella,” the quintessential feel-good fairy tale, is always a treat to see, and the Royal Ballet Company’s version epitomizes British ballet in its choreography and style. Along with “Manon,” it is deemed one of the “English classics of the 20th century,” while pieces such as “Gisele” and “Swan Lake” are very much of the 19th century.
First, you can’t miss the English humor in the Royal Ballet’s presentation of the characters. The two ugly stepsisters, in contrast to the frail but beautiful Cinderella, are played by male dancers. Their gestures and dances add a comic touch to otherwise somber situations.
Second, there’s so much gaiety in the role of the Fairy Godmother and the fairies of the four seasons, as well as the magnificant corps de ballet of the stars. Children (locally recruited) play extra roles. There’s no evil stepmother, but there is a court jester attending to the prince. And there’s no final pas de deux for the prince and Cinderella after they get back together, as one would expect; instead, they fade out toward the sunset.
“This is the first time that the new production has been seen outside of London,” Monica Mason, the artistic director of the Royal Ballet Company, said during a press conference. “Cinderella” and “Manon” are being performed during the troupe’s five-day tour in Seoul, and they were chosen because “both ballets enable us to showcase the whole company,” she said. “It’s very important that we bring two full-length works by [the Royal Ballet’s] great choreographers Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan.”
The late Frederick Ashton’s choreography of “Cinderella” is played out radiantly, although the overall impression is that the ballet is more adorable than grandiose. The 12 stars’ flickering arms seemed like sparkles in the dark, while the fairies’ dance variations did appear heavenly in their formations. The splendid constumes also added to the magical spirit of the performance.
Darcey Bussell, playing the heroine, looks stunningly youthful despite her years (mid-30s) and being a mother of two young girls. The Fairy Godmother’s solo was also splendidly graceful, and thus Cinderella did not appear to be the sole prima ballerina in this piece.
The only rude awakening on opening night, Wednesday, was that part of the set came crashing down during Act One, in a scene with the Fairy Godmother and Cinderella. The performance was delayed for 20 minutes due to this accident, which occurred during the changing of sets. No one was hurt, but it cut short what otherwise would have been a brilliant, lively and spirited performance. After the program resumed, there was a noticeable tension among the dancers, and one of fairies fell.
“Manon,” the story of a French girl’s realization of true love, was choreographed by the late Kenneth MacMillan, and expresses tragedy in a very modern way. The highlight of this piece is the dramatic dance by Manon, which will be played by Alina Cojocaru and Ms. Bussell this weekend.
by Choi Jie-ho
The Royal Ballet’s “Cinderella” is being performed today at 7:30 p.m., and “Manon” is being performed on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. Ticket prices range from 40,000 won to 200,000 won. For more information, call (02) 399-1114/7 or visit www. sejongpac.or.kr.