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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 11, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 06
PNB offers radiant Cinderella revival as Valentine's gift
Arts & Entertainment
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PNB offers radiant Cinderella revival as Valentine's gift

by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Cinderella
McCaw Hall
Through
February 13


Pacific Northwest Ballet offers a pre-Valentine's Day treat to Seattle dance fans with its radiant revival of Cinderella. Danced to Sergei Prokofiev's acclaimed score, with a few additions from the composer's vast repertory, the PNB production was originally choreographed in 1994 by Kent Stowell, then PNB's co-artistic director. The 2011 revival, the first in nine years, is staged by Stowell and Francia Russell, his wife and co-founding PNB artistic director. Performances continue tonight through Sunday.

While story ballets are always popular with general audiences, Cinderella also draws a sizeable family crowd because of the fairy tale setting. While last Friday's opening night was heavily attended by children, this Cinderella is often a stretch for children. It is also a delightful fairy tale treat for all ages.

One major event of this revival was the appearance of Emil de Cou on the conductor's podium. Billed as a 'guest conductor' for this production, he will assume the full-time position of PNB's music director and principal conductor at the start of the Company's 2011-12 season next fall. As expected, de Cou led the PNB Symphony through the challenging Prokofiev score with skill and sensitivity. Born in Los Angeles, he comes to PNB and Seattle with extensive experience at the American Ballet Theatre in New York and the San Francisco Ballet plus other numerous ballet companies throughout the world. He is clearly an asset-in-waiting for PNB.

Cinderella, for the most part, holds up well. Stowell's major strength in his lengthy tenure at PNB seemed to be in the administrative area. His choreography for numerous PNB works was always solid but rarely truly inspired. Act One of Cinderella is especially bare bones - a lot of predictable mime, over-the-top clowning by the two stepsisters, scolding looks from the stepmother. It's nearly mid-way through Act One before serious dancing has a chance to take center stage.

Act Two, the highlight of the story and of Stowell's work, is the Palace Ball. Here, Cinderella and her Prince Charming really get to shine. Lesley Rausch, a soloist with the company, and Jeffrey Stanton, a principal PNB dancer, appeared as the magical couple on opening night. As usual, their roles will rotate to other dancers during the show's two-weekend run. Cinderella and her Prince are all in white while the entire corps de ballet is in stunning red with white accessories. The ball scene - a mass of swirling red-on-red in a spectacular palace setting--is a visual highlight of the work and a trademarked scene from PNB's vast repertoire. The comic stepsisters, delightfully over-the-top (and suitably so) in Act One, continue their frantic miming in Act Two, often upstaging the romantic couple center stage. Since Stowell supervised the revival, their upstaging antics must be with his permission. Tuning them down a notch or two would allow Cinderella and her Prince more of an opportunity to shine without distraction.

While much of Cinderella comes close to filler, the various diversions - the Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter appearances, the Theatre of Marvels entertainment in Act Two, the delightful Jester early in the Ball scene - are all first-rate and add to the dance opportunities and the glory of the visuals.

Cinderella continues through Sunday. PNB's box office reported 'good seating' at all performances. Details at (206) 441-2424. For fans of modern works, PNB's March 18-27 outing, termed 'Contemporary 4,' offers four modern works, including two PNB premieres, one of them a world premiere. Traditional story ballets complete the season.

Cinderella makes a memorable pre-Valentine's Day treat. Check it out.

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