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San Francisco Ballet: Cinderella
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San Francisco Ballet: Cinderella

- Onstage with the Dancers

Olympic Flame Diner
200 West 60th Street
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New York, NY 10023

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San Francisco Ballet

At David H. Koch Theater


Helgi Tomasson, Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer
Glenn McCoy, Executive Director
Debra Bernard, General Manager
Kyra Jablonsky, Assoc. Director, Communications
Martin West, Music Director and Principal Conductor
Guest Orchestra, New York City Ballet Orchestra
Ricardo Bustamente, Ballet Master and Asst. to Artistic Director

New York Tour Publicity: Keith Sherman and Associates

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 26, 2013

Cinderella (2012): Composer: Sergei Prokofiev, Choreographer: Christopher Wheeldon, Asst. to the Choreographer: Jacquelin Barrett, Libretto: Craig Lucas, Scenic and Costume Design: Julian Crouch, Lighting Design: Natasha Katz, Tree and Carriage Sequence Direction/Design: Basil Twist, Projection Design: Daniel Brodie, Scenic Associate: Frank McCullagh, Guest Repetiteur: Bruce Sansom, Conductor: Martin West, Performed by Yuan Yuan Tan as Cinderella, Luke Ingham as Prince Guillaume, and the Company and Students of San Francisco Ballet School as Stepmother Hortensia, Stepsister Edwina, Stepsister Clementine, Benjamin (friend to the Prince), Cinderella’s Father, Cinderella’s Mother, King Albert, Queen Charlotte, Alfred (Benjamin’s Father), Madame Mansard, Fates, Young Cinderella, Young Prince, Young Benjamin, Spirits, Tree Gnomes, Puppeteers, Ladies in Waiting, Servants, Courtiers, Russian Princess, Spanish Princess, Balinese Princess, and Attendants.

Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella is regal, refreshing, and radiant. In fact, it was thrilling to see Basil Twist’s tree and carriage sequence, Julian Crouch’s costume design, and Natasha Katz’ lighting design in intoxicating collaborative imagery. This version of the fairy tale ballet, with a libretto by Craig Lucas, was a co-production with Dutch National Ballet in its 2012 world premiere. The storyline is drawn from the original 1697 folk tale by Charles Perrault, retold by the Grimm Brothers in the 1800’s. It’s initially a sad, dark tale, but, through balletic expansion the story becomes enthralling, often witty, and sumptuously romantic. Mr. Wheeldon’s ballet brings forth Cinderella’s birth mother, who died of sudden illness, Cinderella’s father, who meets Hortensia, the possessive stepmother, who happens to have an alcohol habit, along with two daughters of her own, Clementine, the friendly stepsister, and Edwina, the cruel stepsister.

Instead of a good fairy, mice, pumpkins, etc., in the traditional ballets and Disney film, Mr. Wheeldon has cast four Fates, men who serve as a Greek Chorus of impending doom or hope. He’s also cast a sidekick for the Prince, Benjamin, who play-acts with Prince Guillaume, with Benjamin playing the role of Prince and Guillaume the role of a beggar, to see which young women in the Kingdom are really kind and generous. There’s a projection design by Daniel Brodie with flying birds and clouds, plus tree and foliage effects, and a puppet and special effects segment with the tree extending into Cinderella’s carriage and puppet horses, and with Cinderella’s dress bursting as a giant, yellow, billowing balloon that transports her to the ball.

Yuan Yuan Tan is Cinderella, refined, wispy, poignant. She cries over her mother’s grave, and a tree grows from her tears. This early magical sequence immediately draws the viewers in, a preview to the production’s enchantment. When her golden ball gown emerges through the morphing tree, and silvery horse heads and a golden balloon fill the stage, seemingly speeding into the orchestra pit, one could hear audible “ahs” and gasps. Ms. Tan presented a dramatic persona, from the moment the adult Cinderella appeared (Cinderella, the child, in the early death scene of the mother and on meeting the step-relatives, was a talented Isabella Castillo). Ms. Tan danced with Luke Ingham, Prince Guillaume, with rapturous abandon and lightness of step.

Mr. Ingham (who was portrayed as a child Prince by Benjamin Bender) was well suited to the charm and sorcery of this ballet. He was playful with his cohort, Benjamin (Taras Domitro), and he was urgently enamored as Guillaume, especially on meeting in Cinderella’s kitchen, then later at the ball, and finally back in the kitchen with the lost, golden shoe. The ballroom pas de deux, although sometimes overshadowed by the Fates (Gaetano Amico, Daniel Deivison, Anthony Spaulding, Shane Wuerthner) in percussive antics, captivated the viewer’s experience. Marie-Claire D’Lyse, as the tipsy tyrant, Hortensia, was fully the conniving, mean-spirited stepmother, who wanted Cinderella’s father to herself and the Prince for one of her doting daughters, Edwina (a witty Vanessa Zahorian) and Clementine (a conflicted Dores André).

In Act I, Spirits emanate from the embracing, leafy tree, dancing motifs of the seasons, Spring/Lightness, Summer/Generosity, Autumn/Mystery, and Winter/Fluidity. This balletic segment offered a chance for the Corps to shine, aided by additional ensembles as Tree Gnomes, Ladies in Waiting, and Servants, along with Puppeteers. Bird-like feathers and puppet heads added mystery and magnetism. In Act II, the burgundy-splashed, regal scenes at the Prince’s palace, with Guillaume encouraged by King Albert (Ricardo Bustamente) and Queen Charlotte (Anita Paciotti) to marry soon and well, included three Princesses of Russian (Sasha de Sola), Spanish (Kimberly Braylock), and Balinese (Dana Genshaft) dance styling. Act III’s hunt for the Prince’s dance partner from the ball, owner of the missing golden slipper, brought back the Prince’s dance teacher, Madame Mansard (Katita Waldo), along with Benjamin’s father (Val Caniparoli) and the entire Company.

With the ever shifting sets and scenes (seven scenes in Act I alone) and costumes that change instantaneously, this ballet might be challenging for young audience members to absorb. But, the story remains familiar, with the theatrically portrayed prologue scenes of Cinderella’s childhood and vivid introduction of her step-family. This is surely a ballet worth re-visiting. Conductor, Martin West and City Ballet Orchestra brought out the melodic, melodramatic score with swirling strings and iconic refrains. The ticking clock was omnipresent. Kudos to Christopher Wheeldon and the San Francisco Ballet.

Taras Domitro
in Wheeldon's "Cinderella"
Courtesy of Erik Tomasson

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at