Metropolitan Opera House, New York, NY
July 1 (m), 2015
July 1st’s matinee of Cinderella was packed with little girls (and a few little boys) along with their mothers and grandmothers. ABT made the wise marketing decision of offering one free ticket for every ticket purchased; and there was not a peep out of the children who were all totally engrossed in this wonderful love story.
In 2014, after years of performing second-rate versions of Cinderella, ABT decided to stage Frederick Ashton’s classic adaptation of the fairy tale. Ashton’s version is an enchanting ballet for both the young and young at heart.
The choreography matches perfectly Prokofiev’s score, and brings the well-known characters to life. The steps for the fairies of the four seasons are complex and challenging. The twelve stars create stunning geometric designs when they dance. When Cinderella floats down the stairs of the ballroom on pointe, it is one of the most exhilarating moments of the ballet. The pas de deux Ashton created for Cinderella and her Prince are all magically romantic. David Walker’s costumes and scenery are exquisite, particularly the Act II and III ballroom scenes. The ending, with twinkling stars shining on the happy couple, is beautiful.
All the performances were marvelous, though some definitely stood out. Newly promoted principal dancer, Stella Abrera, as Cinderella, showed elegant musicality and dazzling footwork. Her turns à la ménage were quick and precise. Abrera has a very animated face, which communicated all Cinderella’s hopes and fears. Her Cinderella was a very gentle maiden who was kind to the ugly Step-Sisters no matter how mean they were to her.
Soloist Joseph Gorak was a perfect Prince, reminiscent of a young David Hallberg. He was an attentive and secure partner who tossed off multiple air turns and effortless leaps with the plushest of landings. Abrera and Gorak’s chemistry was delightful, which made them a very appealing fairytale couple.
The ugly Step-Sisters are one of Frederick Ashton’s most notable inventions. In the tradition of British pantomime, they are performed by men. Sean Stewart and Duncan Lyle were both hilarious and plausible in the parts. They were not just men in dresses fooling around; they were artists depicting genuine characters. Stewart was the bossy elder sister, while Lyle was the shy but coquettish younger one. They even remained in character during the curtain calls. When they came out for their bows, Lyle was given a large bouquet of flowers while Stewart got a much tinier bouquet. Stewart instantly snatched the huge bunch of flowers from Lyle and gave him the little one.
Soloist Devon Teuscher was a picture-perfect Fairy Godmother, with magnificent jumps and velvety smooth movements. The fairies of the four seasons and twelve stars were all sensational. And as the Jester, Gabe Stone Shayer was an incredibly exciting dancer, with astonishing split leaps and dizzyingly swift turns.
Ashton’s Cinderella is a beautiful production, ideal for children of all ages. I hope ABT continues dancing it for many years to come.