National Ballet of Canada. Choreographed by James Kudelka. On the 4 Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, until March 19. national.ballet.ca or 1-866-345-9595
How do you want your fairy tales; sickly sweet or with a skinny slice of lemon?
With regards to theatrical renderings of the millennia-old, archetypal, rags-to-riches Cinderella story, the previous appears to be the prevalent taste, unless you might be Canadian choreographer James Kudelka. His inventive, contemporary reimagining of the time-honoured tale has one foot in fairyland but a fair firmer one in a world that’s recognizably real.
Kudelka made his three-act version for the National Ballet of Canada in 2004, during his nine-year tenure as artistic director. It was a right away hit and quickly repaid its roughly million-dollar cost. Now, in its fifth revival, Kudelka’s “Cinderella”, featuring a number of exciting debuts and guest appearances — and just a few farewells — is back in time to please spring-break family audiences.
Last December principal dancer Genevieve Penn Nabity and corps de ballet member Larkin Miller made unanticipated opening-night debuts because the leads in Kudelka’s version of “The Nutcracker”, replacing, on account of injury, the previously announced forged. It was immediately clear that they’re a match made in ballet heaven. It’s subsequently not so surprising that Kudelka selected them because the leads in “Cinderella”, according them the honour of Friday night’s opening.
One can imagine that making major debuts under such an intense highlight is perhaps somewhat unnerving for 2 young dancers but you’d never guess it from Nabity and Larkin’s rapturously confident performances. Were it not for the hilarious antics of veteran ballerina guest artist Evelyn Hart as a debuting, peignoir-wrapped, booze-swilling stepmother and seasoned first soloist Tanya Howard and second soloist Brenna Flaherty — one more role debut — as Cinderella’s silly stepsisters, Nabity and Larkin may need stolen the show entirely.
The word ballerina tends to be thrown around too loosely nowadays as a synonym for dancer, but Genevieve Penn Nabity is the true McCoy. She has grace, poise, personality and technique to spare. She makes music visible.
Nabity has already proved herself within the daunting dual “Swan Lake” Odette/Odile lead role. In “The Nutcracker”, she sparkled magically because the Sugar Plum Fairy. Now, as Cinderella, Nabity reveals a dramatic flair and emotional range that brings her character vividly to life. She is not any longer a star within the making. She’s made it.
Larkin Miller suits the ballet prince mould perfectly. He’s tall, handsome, tastefully virile and attentive to a partner’s needs. You sometimes should wonder if Kudelka likes tempting fate relating to the difficult lifts and direction changes he builds in to his pas deux. His “Cinderella” duet work is a like a ballet minefield but Larkin made the lifts if not at all times effortless at the least not scary to observe. How long must he wait for a well-earned promotion?
Designer David Boechler sets Kudelka’s “Cinderella” within the Nineteen Twenties, all flappers and Art Deco. Unlike other versions by which the heroine’s widower father survives to be bullied by a recent wife, Kudelka’s Cinderella is a fully-fledged orphan. Her socially climbing stepmother and stepsisters aren’t a lot oppressively vicious as so self-involved they dismiss Cinderella’s efforts to maintain the home so as. She finds comfort by a glowing hearth and in her beloved vegetable garden while dreaming of the right romance.
Up on the local palace, the rating royal also dreams of finding a girl he can truly love. With the indispensable aid of a Fairy Godmother, Cinderella arrives spectacularly on the young prince’s ball. Does anyone not know where it goes from there?
Yes, it’s the seek for the foot that matches the abandoned slipper, a quest that in Kudelka’s version takes the prince and his entourage on a round-the-world journey, using up all of composer Sergei Prokofiev’s “travelling” music in the method. In line with today’s heightened sensitivities, Kudelka has modified considered one of the prince’s more problematic “does the shoe fit?” encounters.
When the couple is finally reunited in Cinderella’s kitchen the prince doesn’t whisk her off to the palace for a lavish wedding and lifetime of purposeless luxury. He’s quite content to take a seat by the fireplace along with his head on his beloved’s lap. Whether the prince totally renounces his royal status — in Kudelka’s there isn’t any “spare” sibling — is a matter left for us to make your mind up.
The present 12-performance run of “Cinderella” is already heavily sold, reflecting the sturdiness of Kudelka’s homegrown version, nevertheless it might be a protracted wait before we see it again.
Before the arrival of Hope Muir as artistic director in January 2022, the National Ballet entered an agreement with the Royal Ballet in London to share the associated fee of a recent production of a 75-year-old version of “Cinderella” choreographed for that company by Frederick Ashton. If the pandemic had not come along, we may need been seeing this redecorated production here now, as an alternative of the one Kudelka tailor-made for the National Ballet 19 years ago.
Since, in fact, “Cinderella”, very like “The Nutcracker” and “Swan Lake”, kind of sells itself due to title recognition, one is tempted to ask why we want a recent production. In spite of everything, the National Ballet remains to be fielding greater than 50-year-old, albeit refurbished productions of “Giselle” and “The Sleeping Beauty.”
Because it happens, Muir has emerged as a firm admirer of James Kudelka, seeing his choreographic legacy as a part of the National Ballet’s DNA. As Muir makes abundantly clear in the home program, she adores his “Cinderella.”
Evelyn Hart shared that she considers Kudelka’s “Cinderella” amongst the very best she’s seen. She will not be alone. News that Ashton’s version can be coming to Toronto was not greeted with universal jubilation among the many dancers.
It is very unusual for an organization to maintain two major productions of a ballet with the identical title within the energetic repertoire yet the official company line now’s that in the long run the Canadian-made Kudelka version will “rotate” with the refitted British one. We’ll see how that goes.
In probably the most ideal circumstances, provided that even strong-sellers equivalent to “Cinderella” are inclined to be programmed every three to 4 years, it might be at the least the tip of the last decade before Kudelka’s is seen again. Probably an excellent reason to catch it before it’s too late.
Notably, the corporate will rejoice on stage the long careers of soon-to-retire artists Tanya Howard and Rebekah Rimsay on March 12 and 19 respectively.