I confess it has been 13 years since I last reviewed Ben Stevenson's Cinderella on the Pennsylvania Ballet. The British choreographer with an O.B.E. behind his name has been working in the U.S. for half a century. Stevenson first made Cinderella in the U.K., and then put it on the National Ballet in Washington, D.C. in 1970. He staged it on the Houston Ballet when he became its director in 1976. When I last reviewed it, I found it over embellished, the choreography formulaic and dated.
The best that a critic can hope for when writing about something that didn't impress the first time is that the dancers will lift it to a higher level. In Thursday night's opening of this two-weekend run, many fulfilled that hope. But it was Stevenson's freshened choreography to Serge Prokofiev's 1945 Cinderella score inspired them.
Stevenson directs Texas Ballet Theater in Fort Worth and there, 48 years after his original Cinderella, he took a brave new look at the work, paring it down to its essential storyline. Now it's a truly modern and entrancing ballet. And, with pumpkins, masks, and little girls in gumdrop-colored costume dresses in the audience, it's a perfect pre-Halloween show to enjoy with your family. The kids, all of us, were squealing with laughter at the ugly stepsisters' clunky dancing by Charles Askegard and Ian Hussey.
As opening night's Cinderella, Oksana Maslova was anything but awkward. Whether in cindery rags or princess regalia, she's an ethereal wisp and a flawless ballerina. She's a thoroughly modern Cindy, vying for her father's (James Ihde) attention by shoving away her stepsisters, and at last fending them off with her broom.
In her duets with her dreamy partner the Prince (Sterling Baca), her solos and her arms, whether dipped in arabesques penché or fishdives, were as feminine and languid as a swan's neck dipping for a sip in its lake.
Artistic director Angel Corella cast each role as if he was putting the finishing flourishes on a plate to serve to royalty. Representing each season, Yuka Iseda, Lillian Di Piazza, Mayara Pineiro, and Dayesi Torriente gave star quality solos. And Alexander Peters as The Jester? No one could have split the air with more ballon.
Everyone will love the prancing "horses" that pull the awe-inspiring carriage that brings Cinderella to the ball, as well as the elegant sets by Thomas Boyd and Steven Rubin. Beatrice Affron Jonas conducted the Waltz section with just the right edges of humor and a slightly macabre quality to this music that was written during World War II. The red-clad force of 11 couples danced the deconstructed waltz as if their lives depended on it. Viva Cinderella!