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Cinderella Goes to the Ball(et): Boston Ballet’s Classic and Comforting Retelling of a Favorite Fairytale

Seo Hye Han in Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella.
Seo Hye Han in Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella. By Courtesy of Liza Voll / Boston Ballet
By Kinnereth S. Din, Contributing Writer

The Boston Ballet presented Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Cinderella” from March 14 to March 24. A timeless classic with a twirling cascade of enchanting sets and mesmerizing choreography, the ballet found an aptly majestic venue in the opulent Citizens Bank Opera House, the home of Boston Ballet. The classic imagining hit every familiar story beat, and the spectacular performance was a richly nostalgic retelling.

The performance consisted of three acts: “The Home of Cinderella, her Father, and her Stepsisters,” “A Hall at the Palace,” and “After the Ball.” The ballet began with a grand flickering fireplace as the curtain opened onto a massive furnished living room. Cinderella (Viktorina Kapitonova)’s longing for her deceased mother and her later compassion for the mysterious woman who turns out to be her fairy godmother was reflected in Sergei Prokofiev’s score, performed by a live orchestra. The orchestra’s moody and dramatic yet light and hopeful performance served as great foreshadowing of the narrative.

Kapitonova shone as Cinderella, embodying the earnestness and kindness central to the popular character. Even as Cinderella was ignored by her stepsisters preparing for the ball, Kapitonova’s energetic movements gave form to her character’s positivity. Her expert portrayal continued during her later engagements with other characters, such as when she mirrored the audience in Act I with a large smile as she met her fairy godmother, portrayed by Ji Young Chae.

Danced by Lasha Khozashvili, the Prince’s performance added a charming and natural chemistry to the on-stage dynamic. Appearing late in the second act, the Prince’s entrance was characterized by fluid motions. The partner work choreography was tender, and the energy of each number was hopelessly romantic. Cinderella and the Prince’s pas-de-deux was one coherent motion, both dancers moving in perfect harmony. The dancers dressed in blinding white costumes in the second act, Kapitonova’s multiple pirouettes and spins elicited a burst of applause, and Khozashvili’s graceful lifts and jumps exuded a regal air. For Cinderella and the Prince’s first appearance at the ball in Act ⅠⅠ, both of their costumes and expressions portrayed the innocence and bliss of new love.

A similarly unforgettable pairing was Schuyler Wijsen and Ángel García Molinero performing as Cinderella’s stepsisters. Wijsen and Molinaro added much to the unconventional choice of having the stepsisters played by men, a role once famously danced by Frederick Ashton himself with the Royal Ballet. The roles were danced with high energy, ridiculous mannerisms, and dramatic flouncing, making the fairytale highly entertaining with colorful and humorous foils. Cinderella’s stepsisters flaunted about and bickered as they prepared for the ball, a comedy enhanced by the jaunty and brisk gestures of both dancers. The comedic scenes of the stepsisters continued as they dressed or flirted at the ball in Act II, layered with playfully timed pliés.

Color was also abundant in the glittering costumes and picturesque set pieces that seemed to be taken straight from a storybook. Scenic Designer Toer van Schayk constructed a delightful landscape so that Cinderella could glow in front of a wide backdrop of fairies and stars. The same can be said for Costume Designer Christine Haworth’s twinkling wonders — the costumes’ skirts still sparkled in the audience’s mind long after the dancers had finished.

Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella did not obsess over reinventing a beloved classic. While the ballet didn’t attempt to subvert expectations, the performance can be counted as a faithful imagining of the Cinderella story. Boston Ballet’s classically told “Cinderella” and the captivating technique of the dancers who created the magic of the production truly shined. Such a classic and comforting story seemed profoundly suited to the medium of ballet. The effective acting and liveliness in the roles of Cinderella, the Prince, Cinderella’s stepsisters, and the corps de ballet created a feeling of passion and authenticity. For those yearning for the classic creativity of a tried and true tale, Boston Ballet’s “Cinderella” fits as perfectly as Cinderella’s glass slipper.

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