Life & Culture

Dance review: Cinderella

Joy Sable enjoys this classic - but where's the Fairy Godmother?



English National Ballet l


Productions of Cinderella are like buses: you can wait a long time for one, then two come along at once. We have just had the reworking of Ashton’s classic at the Royal Opera House – an over-the-top floral extravaganza – and now English National Ballet is back at the Royal Albert Hall with its version of the familiar fairytale.

Christopher Wheeldon’s take on the traditional story is a very different one. There is no fairy godmother here – a serious omission I feel, as Prokofiev wrote a theme specifically for her character and the four “Fates” that replace her become an annoying presence. The stepsisters are played by women – a nice comical turn by Fernanda Oliveira and Katja Khaniukova on opening night – and are mean-spirited rather than ugly. (One of them has her own budding romance with the Prince’s friend, which is a sweet addition to the usual story.) There are also some strange, rather scary-looking forest creatures which do not add anything to the narrative and look like they have escaped from the pages of another fairytale.

Presenting the ballet “in-the-round” poses its own problems, as the audience must be able to see the action from wherever they are seated in the huge auditorium. It works here, particularly in the ballroom scene where the vast swirling corps de ballet make a spectacular sight waltzing around the circular space. There are interesting scene changes and huge film projections at the back of the set are used to great effect, particularly when the clock strikes midnight and a huge pendulum swings back and forth to mark the end of Cinderella’s big night out.

Erina Takahashi shines as the eponymous heroine. She is petite and looks fragile but her appearance belies a steely strength: her footwork is precise and swift and she glows in her dances with the Prince. On opening night he was danced by Francesco Gabriele Frola, who provided strong partnership in all the pas de deux and has wonderful elevation.

The quality of the dancing scores higher than the choreography in this production, but it is nevertheless well worth seeing. It is always a joy to hear Prokofiev’s lovely score, brought to vivid life under the experienced baton of Gavin Sutherland.

Cinderella is at the Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 until 25 June

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