How Cinderella Maintains Its Magical Appeal in the Texas Ballet Theatre’s Production

Artistry, technique and emotion are brilliantly combined in Texas Ballet Theatre’s production of Cinderella.  Now celebrating its 50th season, critically acclaimed Artistic Director Ben Stevenson choreographs this restaging of the classic ballet set to music by Prokofiev.  Designed to convey the passing of time so much a part of this particular tale, the ballet opens with a black velvet curtain lifted to reveal a bustling family scene.  Set against a candle-lit dining room and a cold hearth, the family scatters and only a young woman remains on stage to begin the drudgery of her nightly toil.  So absorbed in the familiar warmth of these storybook characters, we hardly notice being seamlessly transported into a world of myth and fantasy. 

Cinderella, performed by Carolyn Judson, is left alone to her mundane routine with only a broom and a vivid imagination to keep her company.  Wearing a tattered dress and a dingy apron, her musing mind whisks her away from gloomy circumstances and into a place where freedom and fantasy collide.  Her envisioned partner sweeps her along as she reveals innate beauty through silent, virtuous movement.  The wistful vision snaps back to cold reality and for a moment, Cinderella becomes a parody of herself, dancing with flexed feet in rigid, mechanical steps reflecting the oppression by her less than adoring stepsisters.  As Cinderella’s sparkling Fairy Godmother, Michelle Marie LeBoeuf renews the dream by manifesting a potent atmosphere enlivened with fairies whose quick steps and fluttering gestures embody the four seasons.  Beyond the vibrant scene lurks a mysterious forest, and the once oppressed maiden dances to a somber melody invoking the gravity of Cinderella’s metamorphosis. 

An elaborate masquerade ball opens Act II as we peer into a bygone era where society’s elite step and sway in a romantic waltz.  A springing, colorful jester entertains the noble guests with his electric energy and jovial expression.  Peter Zweifel and Mark Troxler provide comic relief to the celebration of social status with their awkward attempts at grace as the Stepsisters.  Skillfully expressed are the clumsy, galloping phrases that expose their selfish and egocentric nature.  Soft chimes and a tangible excitement in the air announce Cinderella’s arrival in horse-drawn chariot.  Reverently performed by Lucas Priolo, the Prince expresses his admiration in a classic dance of courtship. 

Tender enchantment and mutual adoration are felt in the poetic pas de deux that follows.  In elegant promenades, luxurious lines extended through space and precision footwork, she appears suspended in the arms of her dream incarnate.  Though fate still looms with each strike of the clock, all obstacles are overcome the moment Cinderella’s foot slides into her jeweled slipper.  The final tableau depicts the gentry of young and old bearing witness to the sacred union of a pauper turned princess and her prince.  Throughout this production of exquisite dance, we are reminded of the sweet flowering of love and a dream fulfilled.

Photo: Carolyn Judson as Cinderella (Ellen Appel for Texas Ballet Theater)