ABT premiered its fourth version of Cinderella Monday evening, the Frederick Ashton 1948 masterpiece. Although I have not seen the 1983 Baryshnikov adaptation, the Ashton version is an improvement over James Kudelka’s modern, art Deco piece that ABT debuted in 2006. The Ben Stephenson version, which had its ABT debut in 1996, is a traditional version similar to Ashton’s.
Ashton’s Cinderella, which was first performed by the Sadler’s Wells Ballet at the Royal Opera House, was his first full-length ballet and the first production in the West to use Prokofiev’s score. Prokofiev began the work in 1941, but because of World War II and his work on the opera War and Peace, was not finished until 1944.
When Ashton died in 1988, Royal Ballet dancer and original Prince, Michael Somes inherited the work. After his death, his wife and former Royal Ballet dancer Wendy Ellis Somes, who danced Cinderella and other supporting roles, inherited the ballet. She supervises production of the work, which was acquired by several American companies including ABT, Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, Ballet West, Boston Ballet, and Ballet West.
In Ashton’s version, there is no wicked stepmother. Cinderella’s mother died when she was young. Her good-hearted but weak father married again, but lost his second wife, leaving him with two daughters from a previous marriage, according to the program notes. The ugly step-sisters (played by men) terrorize Cinderella and her father by their reckless and clumsy behavior.
The bulk of the dancing is in Act I. Ashton created four solos in Act I, each representing the four seasons, supported by 12 corps dancers. There is a beautiful pas de deux, but not in the last act as is customary in full-length ballets.
ABTs’s premier was well danced by leads Hee Seo, David Whiteside, with Veronika Part as The Fairy Godmother. Hee was cautious in the opening scene but became more animated in Act II when she discovered her Prince. Whiteside was her handsome prince and played the part well in a reserved, understated manner. Their pas de deux was nicely done with Whiteside devoting all of his attention to his new love. In his solos, with his long legs and nice feet, Whiteside excels at beats such as entrechat six and assemble six. He had a double tour/single pirouette sequence that was well executed.
My favorite of the evening was Veronika Part as the Fairy Godmother. Her effortless leaps seemed to cover half the stage; she was alive and joyous as she was on a mission to rescue Cinderella. And what nice sissonne jumps (jumps off of two legs on to one) with flowing arms.
Skylar Brandt stood out in the Fairy Spring solo with a lot of spunk and energy, sometimes reminding me of New York City Ballet’s Ashley Bouder. She is getting well deserved solo parts. The other fairy seasons were in good form (Summer-Christine Shevchenko, Autumn-Yuriko Kajiya, Winter-Melanie Hamrick).
Craig Salstein and Roman Zhurbin, two ABT’s the most expressive and talented dramatic dancers, portrayed the ugly Step-Sisters. Roman was the elder bossy sister who, unfortunately for everyone around her, made a mockery of the ballroom dances. Craig was the younger step-sister who fell in love with the Prince and every other man she met at the ball. They both did a great job of dancing badly.