Cinderella: Lose Your Slipper Find Your Inner Child

Cinderella: Lose Your Slipper Find Your Inner Child

I am not a fairy tale girl. I’m more just a fairies hold the tale person. I grew up on Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and not Cinderella. I had (and still have) a copy of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night illustrated with Arthur Rackham‘s fairies that were my version of bibbidi boppidi boo. As a teacher, I found all sorts of versions of the Cinderella story that I would read to my class. As for ballet’s, Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, is my dream story ballet. There are so many laugh out loud moments, fairies, nature and the four seasons, beautiful music, intricate costumes, a motherless daughter, and love righting the injustice of it all. If you see one ballet this season, I would choose Cinderella, and if you know me you know I never choose the story ballets as my “one ballet” because I love Boston Ballet’s contemporary mixed bills so much. Cinderella is an exception. Cinderella runs at the Boston Opera House through March 24th. Tickets can be purchased here. For discounted tickets use code BBTIX40 for $40 tickets, valid on select performances of Cinderella.

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

Cinderella is a story almost everyone is familiar with and the fantasy begins even before you get to the Opera House. Seeing small children in pretty dresses hand in hand with their grown-up, some in matching princess~like dresses and other duos tiara-adorned puts you in a playful “dress-up” headspace. Once every one is settled into their seats and the house lights go down, the music begins and you’re swept away into a different time and place.

Many matching outfits and princess-like dresses and accessories were worn for Opening Night at Boston Ballet’s Cinderella at the Boston Opera House.

In story ballets there are essentially four main characters, the good beautiful one (princess), the good strong one (prince), the evil one and the joker. In Cinderella, there are many more stars on stage. In each act, every dancer from the seasonal fairies to the fairy godmother, and the joker to the father seem to have the spotlight on. No matter how small the role is, the characters are so well developed. Thanks to the music, costumes and choreography, the dancers roles are fleshed out fully from the start. Usually,I start with the protagonists, which would be Ji Young Chae as Cinderella and Jeffrey Cirio as the prince, but in classic evil stepsister fashion Paul Craig and John Lam kind of steal the show so I’ll start there.

The step-sisters are more ditsy than evil while still exhibiting so much sibling rivalry and jealousy. Lam and Craig perform these roles to perfection having the entire audience belly laughing. At any given moment, the slapstick goes from very subtle to over the top creating layers of humour throughout. It is rare in a classical story ballet to laugh so much from beginning to end. Even with the step-sisters stealing the spotlight whenever they can, there is much more to love in Boston Ballet’s version of Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella.

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

If you didn’t fantasize that you were living an unjust life (true or not) and that some day something or someone would save you, did you even have a childhood? The set, lighting, music, costumes, and dancing all come together to create a spectacular performance. The set, especially when it is a dark sky with glimmers of light, or forest and garden scenes really lured me into the fairy tale.

Ji Young Chae in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Christine Howarth’s costumes are classical and beautiful. Especially breathtaking is Cinderella as she enters the ball. Unlike a movie or musical, in the ballet, Cinderella is still very much in a ballerina ‘fit and not a ballgown. It is the most brilliant tutu with details that refract light in a dreamy fairy-tale, magical kind of way. Similarly, the glass slipper is not a slipper, but rather a pointe shoe with glass like details.

Ji Young Chae in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Prokofiev’s music at times is the narrator in many ways highlighting the themes in each act. The music accentuates the humour in the opening acts and sparks a gentle fire as Cinderella and the Prince fall in love. The characters and themes are echoed in the music throughout, which holds the audience’s hand and draws them into the story. The music helps spell out the personalities of the characters and highlight the story lines and themes exceptionally well making the story so easy to follow and enjoy.

Ji Young Chae starred as a sweet and subtle Cinderella on opening night. As much as this is a fairy tale, Chae makes her emotions and story line relatable. Her dancing is both grounded and ethereal as well as flawless. Her opening night prince, Jeffrey Cirio, was a slightly less developed character –I mean do we expect much more from just a prince?– but was nevertheless a prince whose dancing and partnering was equally flawless.

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

The stagers of classical ballets often walk a fine line of being historical curators, keeping the details of a work accurate to how it was originally created and gatekeepers of tradition, but also operating in a time when change is not only desired by audiences but necessary for today’s mindset and understanding of past wrongs and foundational societal flaws. The ballets are literally passed down in person and hands on from generation to generation.

I’m a former principal ballerina with the Royal Ballet in London, England, and am now a worldwide producer of two of Sir Frederick Ashton’s ballets, his Cinderella and Symphonic Variations. These have been left in my care to continue to preserve and present the legacy of his work

Wendy Ellis Somes

This version of Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella was recently restored with new costumes and sets. Ashton’s Cinderella was last performed by Boston Ballet in 2019, the current version has costumes and sets purchased from The Royal Ballet and refurbished by Boston Ballet scenic and costume artists, Taer van Schayk (sets) and Christine Haworth (costumes). I would have loved to see a few other subtle changes, like more diverse pairs of ballroom guests at the ball. It would be an easy subtle change to have a couple gay partners at the ball without losing any of the integrity of the dancing or story.

Cinderella was the “new ballet” of its time as Ashton’s first full length work for Sadler’s Wells Ballet (now The Royal Ballet) and it is still considered one of his greatest works. Cinderella, as performed by Boston Ballet, is done so with permission and guidance of Wendy Ellis Somes and Malin Thoors. Remaining performances are:

  • Tuesday, March 19th 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday March 20th 7:30 p.m.
  • Thursday March 21st 7:30 p.m.
  • Friday March 22nd 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday March 23rd 1:30 and 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday March 24th 1:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased here. For discounted tickets use code BBTIX40 for $40 tickets, valid on select performances of Cinderella.

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