Back in 2006 when ABT first presented James Kudelka's Cinderella, The New York Times deemed the production
"a choreographically enticing, visually stunning success"
and applauded the company for choosing Kudelka's
over Frederick Ashton's 1948 production which is mostly known for being danced by The Royal Ballet. The New York Times dance critic raved that Kudelka's PdD were
"among the most romantic"
he'd seen and that Kudelka achieved his success
"by listening closely to the music"
The New York Times dance critic described the choreography as
"superb," "cleverly done," and "captivating"
The New York Times dance critic made a point of singling out many individual performances for praise including those of Isaac Stappas, Craig Salstein, Misty Copeland, Jared Matthews, Stella Abrera, and Sascha Radetsky - all of whom performed again yesterday. Five years have passed since that review and Abrera and Radetsky are now among those who dance the lead roles in the production - although not together.
Three cheers for The New York Times for recognizing a good ballet when it floats into The Big Apple in a big orange pumpkin carriage.
Boston loves this Kudelka production, too: "sumptuous," "eye-popping," with "inventive choreography." Canadians love this Kudelka production, too: "delightful," "a masterpiece," "the finest Cinderella in the world."
Kudelka probably didn't intend his Cinderella to take place in the 1920s on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio, but the worn checkerboard floor, black and white checkerboard tiles in the fireplace, and the massive floor-to-ceiling glass-doored kitchen cabinetry could have come out of a typical village farmhouse in Haglund's old German-Italian hometown. David Boechler's magnificent scenery and backdrops allowed for seamless, musical transitions from Cinderella's house to the ballroom, around the world, and back to her house. His stylish costume designs and props conveyed the glamour of the era.
Stella Abrera and Guillaume Côté (emergency guest artist from The National Ballet of Canada) led the afternoon cast. Côté was Kudelka's first cast Prince Charming when he created this work at NBC in 2004 and he danced the role when Abrera debuted as Cinderella a few years ago. Suave, sophisticated, Canadian classical courtesy from head to toe, Côté's technique was buttery smooth and enabled him to slip in extra revolutions and musical phrasing without offending the stream of the music or the choreographer's intent. His artistry complimented Abrera's rich musicality and her large, sweeping phrases of dance.
They both had very good, very "on" performances yesterday. Multiple pirouettes into arabesque? No problem for Côté. Traveling fouettes waving a dish rag over the head? No problem for Abrera. Grigorovich-inspired lifts where Cinderella jumped at Prince Charming who pressed her into the air in an attitude position while he held her aloft by her supporting leg? No problem. There was good classical chemistry between the two which stayed on the correct side of that fine line of Canadian politeness. It was all rather refreshing, thank you.
The evening performance marked the triumphant debut of Sascha Radetsky as Prince Charming to Xiomara Reyes' impish, high-spirited Cinderella. Radetsky was so successful that you have to think that he is going to rocket his way to more classical prince roles immediately. He showed none of the signs of stress that worry those of us who have been following his performances over the years. Instead, he displayed great form and confidence. His technique held up fabulously under the pressure. Most importantly, when a turn or a balance was a little off, he just saved what he could of it and moved on without fighting with it. His jumps were quiet and he didn't slam the landings (and the achilles) into the floor the way he has been prone to do. He looked dashing, and clearly was that great potential being realized before our very eyes.
Reyes had a fantastic performance this evening and Radetsky owes much of his success to her generous theatricality, unflappable calm, and her confidence in him. Her Cinderella had energy to burn and it was apparent why this Cindy annoyed her stepsisters. Rolling eyes and sighs of exasperation were signs of Cinderella's frustration with her living situation. Where Abrera's character always had the underlying glamour of a princess just waiting for the right dress, Reyes' character required a total transformation from rascal. She accomplished it with her first few catwalk steps out of the pumpkin carriage while wrapped in a full length fur trimmed coat. When dancing at the ball or in the garden in Act III, Reyes always conveyed the joy of her good fortune while wondering if it was a dream or real.
Kudelka's choreography is not of the type for which a company can skimp on rehearsal. It seemed in the performances yesterday and in the dress rehearsal on Tuesday that the corps was not as ready as it should have been. At times in the afternoon performance, it looked like some of the men truly didn't know what step came next and were playing catch-up with the rest. There was troubling timing of double saut de basque which is a difficult step and not common corps work – maybe it's not suitable for ensemble work. When men learn the step and practice it, they always utilize their individual timings and generally teachers don't harp on what count the dancer is in the air and on what count he lands. Well, these things count in ensemble work, and they weren't especially pretty in the performances thus far. Haglund is bringing out of town guests to Friday night's performance (spending over $400) and hopes to be able to report that things have smoothed out. Not kidding.
Wednesday included outstanding soloist performances from Sarah Lane (mat.) and Misty Copeland (eve.) (Blossom), Marian Butler and Renata Pavam (Petal), Simone Messmer and Isabella Boylston (Moss) and Hee Seo and Zhong-Jing Fang (Twig). Their variations are all so individual – the bourree-ing choreography and bending torso of Petal's dance especially beautiful and responsive to the music.
The Stepsister danced by Kristi Boone (mat.) and Nicola Curry (eve.), and the Other Stepsister danced by Luciana Paris and Gemma Bond were uniformly brilliant in both performances. But what happened to the Other Stepsister's big front teeth that were so funny a few years ago? And what happened to her dive under the front curtain at bows?
Haglund must complain that the lighting of the ball scene is way too dark and the spotlights on the principals and especially on players like the escorts and the stepsisters are not bright enough. The women's dresses are stunning, but you can barely see them.
Unless you're a nose-up-in-the-air Brit (or under one's editing control) for whom it's the Ashton way or the highway, you will enjoy this production of Cinderella. The magic is there. The charm is there. The invention is there. The beauty is there.
With so many fine performances yesterday, this is a tough call, but this jeweled Rene Caovilla Pump Bump Award must be bestowed upon Sascha Radetsky for the sensationally danced debut that we've all been waiting for: