Ballet: Cinderella

A welcome summer appearance and original take on the Fairy Godmother makes the ENB's performance stand out


Cinderella is usually standard Christmas fare, so it is good to see it at the Royal Albert Hall now, when it does not have to compete with a batch of Nutcrackers.

English National Ballet has transformed its version by Christopher Wheeldon – originally made for a traditional theatre – so that it has maximum impact in the round, seen-from-all-sides auditorium. The dancers make their entrances and exits in the stalls, so audience members can get a close view of them if they are seated on the aisles.

In this production, the Ugly Sisters are ugly in spirit, rather than in demeanour, and they are danced by women as opposed to men in drag.

What I miss most is the Fairy Godmother, adding her vital touch of magic to the story. Instead we have four “Fates” – a sort of irritating Blue Man Group who appear at various points in the tale to protect Cinderella.

Where this ballet does score highly is in the big production numbers: the Seasons waltz is prettily done and the ballroom scene is spectacular, with the corps de ballet in royal blue and Cinderella in gold. The designs are impressive, particularly those of the woodland creatures, but little children might find some of the larger puppets on the scary side. 

On the opening night, Alina Cojocaru danced a sensitive and delicate Cinderella, thoroughly enchanted by her Prince (a winning turn from Isaac Hernandez). Cojocaru has the ability to make the most difficult steps look easy, and now nearly forty and a mother, she still looks incredibly young.

The Artistic Director of the company, Tamara Rojo, gave a deliciously over the top performance as the wicked Stepmother, all glamour and menace. Her drunken antics at the ball, and her subsequent hangover the following morning, were a joy to behold.

The English National Ballet’s Cinderella is at the Royal Albert Hall until 16 June.

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