The only Cinderella I ever performed was choreographed by Stanton Welch in 1997. It was one of a very long list of ballets that I performed with David McAllister. In very typical Stanton style, the pas de deux were staggeringly beautiful and incredibly difficult, with a particular lift in Act I occasionally resulting in disaster! Thankfully, David and I came out of every performance unscathed, and successful. The Australian Ballet is acquiring a brand new Cinders by Alexei Ratmansky, former Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Ballet and now resident choreographer of American Ballet Theatre. I have given you a Cinderella synopsis below, which will only be a guideline to this debut production by The Australian Ballet.
Written by; Vicki Attard
Act I: Cinderella’s stepmother is busily embroidering a scarf she will wear to the Palace Ball that evening. The Father is also in the room, and the Stepsisters tease him unmercifully. Cinderella enters and stops them. They turn on her furiously and the Stepmother orders her to clean the room. The Stepsisters drag the Father from the room. Cinderella picks up the broom, commences to sweep, then takes a portrait of her dead Mother from its hiding place and gazes at it longingly. Her Father returns and is overcome with remorse when he sees the resemblance between Cinderella and his first wife. His daughter lovingly tries to reassure him, but they are dragged apart by the Stepsisters, who also snatch away the picture.
Suddenly, the door opens and an old woman enters, begging. The Stepmother gives her the picture of Cinderella’s mother to get rid of it, but the beggar woman sees the resemblance to Cinderella and hands it to her. Cinderella offers the woman some bread, which she accepts and then departs.
A dressmaker and wigmaker arrive to adorn the Stepsisters for the Ball to be held at the Palace that evening, followed by a dancing master, who attempts the impossible task of teaching the Stepsisters the rudiments of dancing. The family departs for the Ball, with the exception of Cinderella who remains behind. She tries to lessen her loneliness by pretending that the kitchen broom is her partner at the Ball, but the pretense is too much for her, and she bursts into tears. At this moment, the beggar woman returns and changes into a beautiful fairy Godmother.
The Fairy Godmother gives Cinderella a pair of glass slippers, and the Fairies of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter perform for her, changing the seasons as they dance. Cinderella’s rags become a beautiful gown, but the Fairy Godmother shows her a clock, and warns her that at midnight, the magic gown will change back into rags. She then transforms a pumpkin and four lizards into a coach and horses, and Cinderella is driven to the Ball like a princess.
Act II: At the Palace, a Jester welcomes the arriving guests, who are all somewhat taken aback by the Stepsisters. The Prince enters and greets the assembly, then gallantly invites each of the Stepsisters in turn to dance with him, much to the amusement of the guests. At this moment, the Ball is interrupted by the arrival of Cinderella in her coach, and the Prince immediately falls in love with her. The guests are offered oranges – the rarest food to be had – and when one of the Stepsisters is left without one, Cinderella gives up her own, without the Stepsister realising her identity. While the Prince and Cinderella are dancing together, the clock strikes midnight. Cinderella’s clothes turn to rags and she rushes from the ballroom. The Prince cannot restrain her, but finds one of the glass slippers which she has lost in her haste.
Act III: Back in the kitchen, Cinderella remembers the Ball as if it were a beautiful dream, but finds the remaining glass slipper in one of her pockets. She quickly hides it as the Stepsisters return, proudly displaying the oranges the Prince gave them. The Stepmother announces the arrival of the Prince with his Jester and courtiers in search of the owner of the glass slipper they bear with them. Each of the Stepsisters in turn vainly tries to squeeze an oversized foot into the tiny slipper. When the Prince notices Cinderella sitting shyly by the fire, he asks her father if she may try it on. As she moves to do so, the second slipper falls from her pocket. The Prince is overjoyed in spite of Cinderella’s ragged appearance, and asks her to marry him. Cinderella forgives her Stepmother and sisters for their previous cruelty to her.
Cinderella and her Prince dance a triumphant finale surrounded by the fairy godmother and her entourage. They walk off into their happy ever after as gold dust falls upon them.
I hope you enjoyed reading the above Cinderella synopsis, just remember each production will differ in many ways, including variations to storyline, characters, period etc. Although, I believe it is still useful to have a basic understanding of the original storyline.
Cinderella Fun facts:
- Over 1500 variations of the story of Cinderella exist.
- In 1870, the Bolshoi Theatre requested Tchaikovsky to write the music for the ballet, but it never materialised. Many decades later, Prokofiev took on the task of scoring the music for the ballet of Cinderella. He began his work in 1940, but put it on hold during World War II to write the opera War and Peace. In 1944, Prokofiev finally finished the score a year later.
- Prokofiev’s ‘Cinderella’ was first performed on November 15, 1945 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow with choreography by Rostislav Zakharov, with Galina Ulanova dancing the title role.
- In many Cinderella productions, the roles of the step-sisters are played by men in a comical manner.
Australian dancers should keep an eye out for performances of this classic ballet in the upcoming season with The Australian Ballet. For further information on performance dates, CLICK HERE