The Mariinsky Theater’s latest, updated, staging of the ballet Cinderella drew a muted response from audiences in Washington.
The contemporary approach taken to both costume and choreography left audiences at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts dumbfounded.
“I wanted to watch the show, and then get tickets for the next performance for my son and mom. But I won’t now. My son’s seven, this is nothing like how he imagines Cinderella” one audience member, Maria, said.
St. Petersburg’s famous ballet company is performing Cinderella at the Kennedy Center until October 21. Opening the 2012-2013 season, Michael Kaiser, President of the Kennedy Center, called this ballet one of the upcoming season’s “hits.”
However, many people in the audience were not prepared for the contemporary approach that choreographer Alexei Ratmansky took to the ballet, and were expecting something much more traditional.
There were nervous laughs and gasps of surprise when the curtain went up on scenes of the strikingly dressed stepmother and daughters, the alcoholic father and his drinking buddies, mini-skirts and 1920s-style smoking jackets. Some scenes, particularly those featuring gay themes, completely lost the audience.
“We were looking forward to seeing real, classical Russian ballet, and while Ratmansky’s staging is of course interesting and unusual, it’s just not ‘it’: we prefer a classic approach,” said Andrei, a Russian living in Washington.
The reviews suggest that this sums up the broader audience response. “This is not your daughter’s Cinderella. It may not be yours, either; empty seats materialized after each intermission,” wrote Sarah Kaufman in the Washington Post.
The consensus among the reviewers was that this was not a particular success. But not all of that is down to the staging, Kaufman noted in her review, this weakness is in part rooted in Prokofiev’s score.
Members of the audience also complained about some scenes being too drawn-out, and called others superfluous.“There was nothing they could do, the music’s there, and they had to think up some scenes” Maria said.
However, some people appreciated this radical approach to a ballet classic. “This is a modern take on a classic piece; it’s very fresh and interesting. I love it,” one audience member at the Kennedy Center said.
While the staging may have been controversial, the performers’ ability was not. Fulsome praise was lavished on those taking the main roles: Maria Shirinkina, Vladimir Shklyarov, Ekaterina Kondaurova as the stepmother.
The Washingtonian magazine also gave a special mention to Keenan Kampa, the first American ever to dance with the Mariinsky. She was born near Washington, and also studied dance near the city, so this performance was something of a homecoming for her.
The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and the Mariinsky Theater have agreed that each year the Russian ballet company will bring its best and strongest shows to America. Last year – Sleeping Beauty and Russian Season, which included three famous ballets choreographed by Mikhail Fokin: Chopiniana, Scheherazade, The Firebird.
These performances of Cinderella in Washington mark the final stage in the Mariinsky’s 2012 US tour. Over the period October 2-7, the Mariinsky gave seven performances of Swan Lake at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, from October 10-14, at Berkley’s Zellerbach Hall.