Northern Ballet Cinderella Leeds Grand Theatre 26 Dec 2013
In my review of Scottish Ballet's Hansel and Gretel on 23 Dec 2013 I wrote:
"Brilliantly conceived, brilliantly orchestrated, brilliantly designed and brilliantly danced my only fear is that it will spoil me for the next ballet that I shall see which will be Northern Ballet's Cinderella at the Grand on Boxing Day."Hansel and Gretel was not the only ballet that might have spoiled me. I had also seen Ashton's Cinderella with Sir Fred and Sir Bob as the ugly sisters. I had seen Matthew Bourne's Cinderella which is set in wartime London and is the best work from New Adventures that I have seen so far. While waiting for the Grand to open I watched on my mobile phone the trailer for Christopher Wheeldon's new version for the Dutch National Ballet which looks amazing. How could anything that Northern might produce possibly stand comparison?
Well, it does. Nixon's Cinderella is his best work yet. Even better than Gatsby (see "Life follows Art: the Great Gatsby" 8 March 2013) and indeed Dream though the audience did not respond so enthusiastically (see "Realizing Another Dream" 15 Sept 2013). As you can see from the synopsis Nixon has reworked the story and used a completely new score by Philip Feeney. Setting the ballet in pre-revolutionary Russia has worked at least as well as Hampson's setting Hansel and Gretel in post-war central Scotland which I commended last week. The first scene brought Chekhov's Cherry Orchard to mind and the circus and skating scenes on the Crystal Lake reminded me of Petrushka. The setting provided the opportunity for some spectacular sets by Duncan Hayler with dashing uniforms for the men and gorgeous skirts and headdresses for the women.
Nixon also created a strong new male character: a magician who replaced the Fairy Godmother in other versions of the story. Danced yesterday by Hironao Takahashi who was also Cinderella's father, Count Serbrenska, he literally wrought magic before our eyes. Conjuring tricks at first and then bigger ones such as doing the housework in a trice (making me and probably every other woman in the audience smile)- a better job than even James Dyson for all his technical wizardry could accomplish - and then finally, after audience dazzling light effects, his tour de force, the Cinders mobile. Her sleigh pulled not by mice but by huskies with the word "Cinders" on the sides in flashing lights. Nixon and Hayler have probably started a new trend in stretched limos. Every girl in Adel, Bramhope and Harrogate will want one for her 18th birthday, prom or hen night.
I must say something about the leading dancers. Like millions of balletomanes I watched Acosta and Nuñez dance Basilio and Kitri in Don Quixote in the cinemas and on BBC4 on Christmas day. There was a special sort of rapport between them which I attributed to their being Latin Americans dancing roles derived from one of the classics of Spanish literature. I saw something of the same yesterday in Javier Torres, who danced the prince, and Lucia Solari, who was Cinderella. Torres, like Acosta, is Cuban and Solari was born in Uruguay which is next to Argentina though she has lived in Europe for many years. Was it coincidence, my imagination or something more? Whatever the reason I was captivated by their dancing, particularly the pas de deux at the end of the ball and the second pas de deux in the last scene.
It would however be unfair to single out those two for special praise. All performed well. Teresa Saavedra-Bordes and Rachael Gillespie, who danced Cinderella's, were anything but ugly except in the way they treated poor Cinders. A strong performance from Jessica Morgan, the stepmother. Oh and I loved the performing bear who I suspect was Matthew Broadbent.
If you want to know more about the show Janet McNulty, who seems to be as big a fan of Northern Ballet as me, has written some marvellous notes for Balletcoforum I have just discovered that forum and am hooked on it. It is a wonderful resource and I commend it to all. Cinderella will be at Leeds until the 4 January 2014 and it will be staged in Hull and Cardiff in April. If you live in or near any of those cities you really must see it.
My only thought - which is only half frivolous - is will Cinderella spoil me for the next ballet that I shall be see which will be Giselle with Acosta and Osipova on 18 Jan in Covent Garden? When I tweeted that thought yesterday @norhernballet (Dolly?) replied that Giselle might give me the wilis which provided plenty of Myrthe.