TEEN AMBASSADOR: ZANE COX | MAY 6, 2016
Ballet is an activity that men like myself usually don’t consider to be “manly”. Unfortunately, it is often looked down upon, but over time I have learned to appreciate the precision and beauty that goes into this delicate art. Every step is perfectly timed, and Moscow Festival Ballet’s performance of Cinderella is no different. Moscow Festival Ballet has had success in over 15 different countries around the world, and have recently started a run in the United States, with their work being highly praised wherever they travel. The story of Cinderella has been remade countless times into theatre performances, operas, and ballets, with ballet being a very popular choice for adaptation forms, as the fluid yet precise moves match the kind and witty personality of the titular character.
Moscow Festival Ballet’s adaptation is certainly one to be admired. The story loosely follows the original plot line – Cinderella’s evil stepmother and stepsisters are invited to the royal ball, while Cinderella must stay home and clean. Cinderella is then visited by her Fairy Godmother, who gives her a beautiful dress to wear to the ball, but advises Cinderella that she must return home by midnight, when the spell will break. Cinderella arrives at the ball and is noticed by everyone, especially the Prince of the kingdom, but rushes home when she forgets her midnight curfew, leaving behind a single glass slipper. The prince keeps the slipper and travels throughout the kingdom, trying to find the woman who fits it. Eventually, he discovers that Cinderella is the perfect fit, and the pair get married. Not only does Moscow Festival Ballet tell this story clearly and concisely from beginning to end, but they also tell it without the use of words – a feat that makes ballet arguably one of the most difficult performing arts to master.
One unique aspect of the performance that stood out to me was that certain important inanimate entities were portrayed as their own separate characters – for instance, the clock that chimes at midnight is now a person, dressed in clever attire to give the appearance of a clockwork gentleman who bounces with each tick and tock. Another element that appeared to be an original addition was the appearance of several assistants to the Fairy Godmother known as the Fairies of the Four Seasons. Each of the four fairies has their own turn in the spotlight, and each one showcases a different approach to ballet – for Spring, light and gentle steps, while Autumn exhibits loud and aggressive sweeping motions. This is a welcome change to the singular-style run of most ballets, and is a great way to show the diversity of the different areas of the art. I mentioned before how difficult it is to tell a story without words.
This leads me to what I think is a fitting phrase for this performance – simplicity is beauty. The design of Moscow Festival Ballet’s Cinderella is incredibly simplistic, incorporating minimalist sets and almost no props whatsoever – however, this is possibly one of the best ways that Cinderella could be presented. In large-scale performances such as those featured on Broadway, sets are complex, costumes are big and flashy, and props are numerous. This can be a good thing at certain times, but at other times it can be a little bit overwhelming. Cinderella, however, knows that it doesn’t need a whole lot of fancy gizmos to make a great performance. The minimalist design also reduces distractions from the set or props, and instead keeps the attention of the audience focused on the story and the dancers themselves. There’s no need to complicate something so simple, and Moscow Festival Ballet jovially embraces simplicity in all its glory.
Overall, Cinderella as a ballet works tremendously, especially with the elite performers of Moscow Festival Ballet. Because of this performance, I’ve gained a deeper understanding appreciation for the art. I sincerely hope that Moscow Festival Ballet will return to the Zeiterion one day, ready to once again bedazzle us with their leaps and twirls.