The rags-to-riches tale of Cinderella is so well-loved that any change to the storyline or how it is told is a huge risk.
Disney’s animated interpretation of the fable is arguably the most well-known, with fairy magic, rats and pumpkins accompanying Cinderella to the ball. The Brothers Grimm story, Aschenputtel, is a more gruesome affair, where the ugly step-sisters cut off their toes so they can fit into the glass slipper.
This new version – created for the Australian Ballet by Alexei Ratmansky, former artistic director of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet and now resident choreographer of the American Ballet Theatre – presents yet another take on the century-old tale, but is careful to not change the heart of the story.
Ratmansky’s interpretation is ethereal. With the full power of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (lead by concert master Elizabeth Layton) playing the music of Sergei Prokofiev, the story begins to take shape. As Cinderella’s awful step-mother and step-sisters head to the ball, her fairy godmother conjures up the celestial bodies of the universe to help Cinderella get ready for her fateful meeting with the Prince.
The dance of the sun and moon, surrounded by the planets, is highly enjoyable. The costumes are beautiful, with headpieces inspired by the heavens and colours that catch the eye as they move about the stage. French costume and set designer Jerome Kaplan deserves accolades for his artistic vision.
Madeleine Eastoe is a captivating Cinderella. Her emotive performance alongside the Prince (Kevin Jackson) is passionate and graceful. Their first pas de deux, complete with lifts and perfect pirouettes, is mesmerising.
Cinderella’s step-mother (Laura Tong) and the ugly step-sisters (Ingrid Gow and Eloise Fryer) are fantastic comedic value, with their attempts to win the Prince’s attention drawing much laughter from the audience. Every dancer on stage demonstrates flawless technique, moving around the stage almost silently. It is a joy to watch such talented performers, particularly when they are accompanied by a live orchestra.
Ratmansky’s version of Cinderella ignores the more sinister interpretations of the story, instead celebrating love at first sight. The end result is an uplifting and heartfelt performance where everyone leaves feeling happy and inspired.
The Australian Ballet’s Cinderella is playing at the Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, until July 10.