Everyone Needs a Fairy Tale: Cinderella

Sometimes, I need a fairy tale so I can dream far fetched dreams. Other times, I need a fairy tale to work through all that is wrong or unjust with the world. I need a fairy tale to plant a seed of hope that was washed away long ago. Just as the fairy tale allows me to daydream and loosen up my thoughts, the ballet gets me out of the house, off social media, away from the depressing headlines. Going to the ballet lets me live a little fuller and Boston Ballet’s performance of Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella allowed me to laugh a little harder too. I was provided tickets for review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Seo Hye Han in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Seo Hye Han was stunning as Cinderella. Her character came to life and her dancing was flawless. Last time Seo Hye Han really caught my attention was as the punk ballerina. You can’t find two more extreme roles. To do both well takes a special kind of talent.

The step sisters, danced by John Lam and Roddy Doble, were ridiculously funny from curtains up to curtain call. Their characters were larger than life as were their shoe size. Just wait until you see some of the lifts their partners can do!

Seo Hye Han in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Little children teetered on the edge of their seat. Their little eyes took it all in as their minds wrapped themselves around the story. Their jaws dropping as rags turned to sparkling riches. Adults relaxed into their seats a little more and were caught giggling and daydreaming themselves.

There was one fatal flaw that I’m hoping was not repeated for every performance. One of Boston Ballet’s assets is that it has a company that is not uniform. There are dancers of all heights and some bodies are slight while others are muscular. Boston Ballet has dancers from all around the world and has begun to make their company even more diverse.

For opening night of Cinderella, you can give me a million reasons why the casting was done this way and none of them will be okay. In this day and age, in this social climate, having the two servants who come to the house, and then proceed to bend over like a sit-stool so that the step sisters can sit and try on shoes be black/brown is unacceptable. If it was an oversight, then you are not thinking about diversity enough. There are so many people within the organization who see the production before it goes on stage someone should have noticed and said something. In addition, the servant child who brings out an orange on a silver platter was also black/brown.

Art has power and artists have responsibilities. I know that Mikko Nissinen believes that the arts have responsibilities. In fact, recently at a talk at Harvard about the business of dance, the question of diversity was brought up by an audience member. Here is what Nissinen had to say.

If we are very successful it [ballet] is for everyone and everyone can relate to it. I want the company to be a reflection of society. There is a lot of work to be done from staff to the board room. The company has to be a mirror of society.

These kind of casting choices make a statement. Intentional or not, this kind of carelessness by one of North America’s largest, most influential ballet companies is irresponsible. I expect more from Boston Ballet and hope to see continued change so that Nissinen’s company reflects a more equitable, racially diverse, society.

Although, it really threw me for the rest of the act. I have to recognize that the performance as a whole was excellent. The dancing was close to flawless, and the classic story of Cinderella as a ballet is one that everyone can enjoy. Tickets to the ballet make a wonderful graduation present or can replace recital flowers.

Cinderella takes place at the Boston Opera House. 539 Washington Street in Boston.

Remaining performances are:

  • Sunday, May 26th at 1:30
  • Saturday June 1st at 1:30
  • Saturday June 1st at 7:30
  • Sunday, June 2nd at 1:30
  • Thursday, June 6th at 7:30
  • Friday, June 7th at 7:30
  • Sunday, June 8th at 1:30

Youth tickets (17 and under) are available at 50% off in sections A & B with the purchase of a full priced adult ticket.

Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella; photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy of Boston Ballet

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