Yassaui Mergaliyev and Deise Mendonça
David Bazemore

The Granada was packed with parents and children in their Sunday best for this dynamic full-length version of the ballet Cinderella. Choreographed by State Street Ballet founder and artistic director Rodney Gustafson to the classic score by Sergei Prokofiev, the show featured a dazzling Cinderella in Deise Mendonça, a sprightly young Prince in Yassaui Mergaliyev, and a hilarious pair of stepsisters danced “en travesti” by Sergei Domrachev and John Christopher Piel. The large cast included loads of familiar dancers from the State Street Ballet as well as several young performers from the company’s professional track, all arrayed in brilliant costumes designed by A. Christina Giannini. Prokofiev’s music for this ballet has to be one of the greatest achievements in the history of scoring for dance. It tells the story so vividly that at certain crucial moments, you almost forget about it — image, gesture, and sound blend together in a seamless whole that flows ineluctably from one scene to the next.

Certain stepmothers, emboldened by the success of other pressure groups in having politically incorrect fairy tales censored, have objected to the way the stepsiblings and parent are portrayed in Cinderella. With this interpretation, they would have a hard time making their case. Yes, the Stepmother in this production, danced by company Ballet Master and supporting choreographer Marina Fliagina, came off as ridiculous, as did her daffy daughters, but consider what fun they had in the process. Gustafson’s choreography made much of the dancing lessons that the stepsisters receive in Act I, and this resulted in fresh, sustained, and spirited comedy. When the beautiful Fairy Godmother (Anna Carnes) arrived to begin Cinderella’s transformation, or when the Friend of the Prince (Ryan Camou) offered his buddy a few pointers on how to move around a ballroom, the contrast between the comic and the serious highlighted what’s most charming about classical ballet. The elaborate love pas de deux between Cinderella and the Prince in Act II was capped by a pair of happy solos celebrating the liberating force of young love, and the meaning of all this happiness was not lost on even the youngest members of the audience. “Mommy,” I heard one young girl telling her mother on the way home after the show, “if they really do get married, I can picture what the rooms of their house would be like.” Don’t worry; they do — and good for you to live so confidently in your young imagination, as that’s what art is for.


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