het parool, 14 december 2012
Cinderella is not a helpless girl and the prince is not just a hunk
The carriage is the best invention of all. In a whirlwind of ballooning fabric, horse masks, wheels and dancers, a credible pumpkin coach is created out of nothing and transports Cinderella to the ball. It appeared at the end of Act 1 and the audience erupted in shouts and cheers that made this world premiere of Cinderella feel more like a pop concert than a classical ballet performance.
Cinderella is brand new. The ballet, to music by Sergei Prokofiev and based on the fairytale of the same name, has been danced for years in the version by the British choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton, but has now been given a radical facelift by Christopher Wheeldon.
Wheeldon has created a daring, more modern version, with bent legs and turned-up feet here and there to show the ‘ugly’ dances of the stepsisters. There are also some remarkable breakdance-like movements for the four Fates, who look like samurai. Now and then, the choreography lapses into moments of acting that are too crazy, and you want to shout ‘Just get on with the dancing!’
Wheeldon’s treatment of the classic fairytale of the neglected girl and her mean stepfamily is a return to the version by the brothers Grimm rather than a Disney look-alike. And Cinderella (danced by Anna Tsygankova) is not a helpless girl bossed about by her stepmother and stepsisters. She is a self-willed woman who disobediently throws a bunch of flowers on the ground by her mother’s grave.
And neither is the prince just a hunk who jumps around. He is headstrong and mischievous. Matthew Golding, the Dutch National Ballet’s Brad Pitt, dances this brazen Prince Guillaume with ecstatic pleasure. His jumps seem higher and his face more jovial. Maybe it helps that his partner Anna Tsygankova is his sweetheart in real life too.
But most beautiful of all is the scenery. A huge tree comes to life through video images, a starry sky twinkles above the dancers, the masks are wittily grotesque and dozens of chandeliers light up the ballroom. It is thanks to set designer Julian Crouch, who made his name in the film and musical world and has never worked in ballet before, that this Cinderella shakes off all its predecessors.
(Lorianne van Gelder)
de telegraaf, 17 december 2012
Cheers for 'Cinderella'
Judging by the enthusiastic reaction of the audience, the Dutch National Ballet has hit bull’s eye with new Cinderella by Christopher Wheeldon. In slickly edited images, the fairytale unfolds before your eyes like a film. Its success would appear due in large part to the exciting designs and the strong performances.
Julian Crouch’s designs revolve around a magical tree, which grows from the tears shed by Cinderella over her mother’s grave. During the performance, you see it grow and bring forth enchanted things. Shrieks of delight arose from the stalls when even the coach appeared from within it – a sublime stunt by Basil Twist.
Wheeldon follows the English tradition of the narrative ballet, and is stylistically closer to Macmillan than Ashton, whose Cinderella has been presented over here for years. The dance of the seasons is lent its charm from the metamorphoses of the tree rather than the choreography. The ball scene that follows, however, does have the required stylishness in its series of exciting solos. In this new version, Cinderella has become more emancipated and the stepsisters slightly less of a caricature. The beautifully costumed whole is mainly focused on a quick succession of dazzling events.
The fact that Wheeldon understands the art of storytelling in dance is excellently demonstrated by Anna Tsygankova in the title role. With her wonderfully lyrical and expressive arms, it is if she is at one with Prokofiev’s music. As her dream prince, Matthew Golding can indulge in some spectacular jumps and turns. Along with the equally virtuoso Remi Wörtmeyer as his childhood friend Benjamin, he conquers the stage with a goodly dose of showing off. Larissa Lezhnina uses every ounce of her comic talent in her interpretation of the alcoholic stepmother.
If the other three casts are just as convincing, this Cinderella promises to be a real hit, also thanks to the expressive musical accompaniment by Holland Symfonia, conducted by Ermanno Florio.
theaterkrant.nl, 14 december 2012
Wheeldon’s Cinderella is a great asset
The new adaptation of the fairytale ballet Cinderella, co-produced by the Dutch National Ballet and San Francisco Ballet, has undergone very little kid-glove treatment. The freedom with which choreographer Christopher Wheeldon and his team have staged their Cinderella is colourful and comical, as well as breathtaking in places.
The three-act ballet has a clear narrative structure and is easy to follow, though it is never predictable. From Cinderella’s dramatic loss of her mother as a young girl and the humiliations she has to endure in her new family to the love that blossoms between her and the prince, the makers always hit the right note in the surprising staging.
The light that shines on Cinderella (Anna Tsygankova) while she dances on the big kitchen tabletop, serving her family, is divine. And at the end of Act 1, where spinning parasols of tree foliage turn into coach wheels and transport Cinderella to the ball, drawn by four horses, she assumes mythical proportions. It is no wonder that Prince Guillaume (Matthew Golding) loses his heart to the sweet and dainty Cinderella, as opposed to the angry stepsisters and the motley parade of foreign princesses who try to win the prince’s favour at the ball.
The top hats and tight-bodiced and full-skirted dresses, as well as the lines of the scenery initially look rather Dickensian. However, in contrast to that often grey and forbidding world, the universe of set and costume designer Julian Crouch is brightly coloured. The same goes for the characters, who are even caricatural at times. For instance, the mean tricks played by stepmother Hortensia (Larissa Lehznina) and her daughters Edwina and Clementine (Megan Zimny Gray and Nadia Yanowsky) are not carried out on the sly, and Cinderella (Anna Tsygankova) is not the only victim. The two sisters often make hilarious fools of themselves in their ridiculous and coquettish competition with each other, as does the very convincingly portrayed drunk stepmother.
The star dancers of the Dutch National Ballet thrive on interpreting these characters. Anna Tsygankova and Matthew Golding are a dream couple, and the supporting roles are danced with verve as well. And Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography for the couple’s solos and duets is impressive in its turns, jumps and dizzying lifts, while the big group sections show a great variety and freedom of movement. Without losing any of its dramatic impact, this fairytale ballet is reminiscent of the magic of an Alice in Wonderland and the stylishness of a fashion designer like Vivianne Westwood. The Dutch National Ballet has acquired both a strong visual spectacle and a fresh breath of freedom with this Cinderella, which is a great asset on all fronts.
de volkskrant, 15 december 2012
Wheeldon turns ballet into cinematic spectacle
The grave of Cinderella’s mother bears the name of Amélie Poulain – a quip by set designer Julian Crouch, referring to the imaginative waitress in the famous romantic comic film. So the title character of the Dutch National Ballet’s large-scale Christmas production, Cinderella, is following in the footsteps of a waitress who spreads happiness and reconciles herself to her fate with plenty of imagination.
It’s a nice touch, but nobody sees it in The Amsterdam Music Theatre. And there are other cinematic details that – although underlining the rich inventiveness of this new production – get lost in such a big theatre. The Amsterdam Music Theatre was home on Thursday evening to the world premiere of the full-length ballet Cinderella, by the Dutch National Ballet in co-production with San Francisco Ballet. This new production is the successor to the old version (1948) by Sir Frederick Ashton, which the company has danced for years.
No money or trouble has been spared in creating an enchanting experience filled with magically growing trees, woodland spirits, bird women, season changes and charming processions of courtiers from all corners of the world. Cinematic locations like palace corridors, kitchens and parklands follow one another in rapid succession, with characters chasing each other like figures jumping across the pages of a 3D picture book.
However, the price for this cinematic spectacle is that the choreography of the Brit Christopher Wheeldon lacks classical grandeur and seems to have been arranged – in stylish contemporary fashion – as a television ballet. The main characters help the story along with ballet movements and facial expressions, but are given few ‘curtain-call opportunities’, where they can shine in solos or Grand Pas de Deux. But apart from that, there is plenty to enjoy.
For the plot, Wheeldon elaborates on the Grimm brothers’ version of Cinderella. From the bitter tears Cinderella sheds over her mother’s grave grows a magical tree with four woodland spirits (dancers who do a lot of floor work), who help her along her bumpy road to royal happiness. Meanwhile, she submits to the humiliations doled out by her stepmother and stepsisters, and secretly looks after a beggar (the prince in disguise).
This Prince Guillaume does not take his future role as king very seriously, horsing around with the valet’s son and trading places with him. This brings him into Cinderella’s kitchen and forms the prelude to her masked entrance at the ball and the search for the matching golden pointe shoe. And of course the couple’s wedding takes place under the magic tree.
With the help of dancing furniture, traditional masks, figurative costumes, Victorian ball gowns, fingernail extensions, waving tail feathers, palace archways and – above all – many ingenious video projections on treetops and palace walls, enchanting stage sets rise up, with the apotheosis of a carriage that takes off with wheels made of tree branches and horses made of sea grass.
Nearly everything looks ethereal and light. This is counterbalanced by the English dance humour. The pointe shoe is regularly used as a vicious ladies’ weapon, as well as a banana skin in grotesque ‘ballet falls’. As the drunken stepmother, Larissa Lezhnina is the queen of slapstick when she comes a cropper (completely in control) while drinking a toast.
Anna Tsygankova is beautifully girlish as the lonely Cinderella and her arms are in wonderful harmony with her elegant legs. In the role of Prince Guillaume, her partner Matthew Golding is given few jumps and pirouettes with which to excel, and the shoulder lifts with Tsygankova look difficult. But he does make a good boyish couple with the mischievous, playful Remi Wörtmeyer as his friend Benjamin. Actually, they could all go on the silver screen just like that. (Annette Embrechts)
nrc handelsblad, 17 december
Dazzling inventive fairytale
The Dutch National Ballet’s new Cinderella is certainly dazzling. Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon rushes through the tale of Cinderella in a kaleidoscopic succession of scenes, creating a dynamic, cinematic effect through magic tricks with scenery and projections. The highlight is Cinderella’s journey to the ball given by the prince, who eventually takes the humiliated skivvy as his bride. Rotating wheels made of tree branches fly through the air, horses’ heads rear up out of nowhere, the salmon pink cape balloons out and in the wink of an eye all the separate parts form a magical coach. On Thursday evening, this ending to the first act received an ovation.
And the rest of Julian Crouch’s clever designs deserve great acclaim as well, especially the imaginative scenes under the magical tree that has grown by Cinderella’s mother’s grave, watered by her daughter’s tears. In the choreography, Wheeldon mixes his British ballet background, characterised by clear lines and tricky small steps, with a more contemporary idiom that is rich in floor work, with a freer and more swinging flow. The mime is legible, amusing and detailed. All in all, it provides an accessible, musical-like experience – which is precisely what Wheeldon wanted.
The downside to this choice is the scarcity of balletic highlights. The duets for the prince and Cinderella (nice roles for Matthew Golding and Anna Tsygankova) are packed with inventive, often difficult partnering, the roguish jumping contests between the prince and his boyhood friend (a razor-sharp Remi Wörtmeyer) bounce off the stage, and the wooden demonstrations by Cinderella’s stepsisters are cleverly made, if rather caricatural.
But apart from that, the classical logic is often exchanged for an eclectic look that is as dynamic as possible, with relatively little variety in steps. Prokofiev’s great waltz, which cries out for sumptuous choreography, is more or less ignored by Wheeldon, while the variations for the seasons are lacking in character. The dancing does not leave much of a lasting visual impression. Nevertheless, this Cinderella is an entertaining fairytale ballet, which is excellently suited to ‘first-timers’. (Francine van der Wiel)
trouw, 18 december 2012
Cinderella is on a grand scale but remains human
No, a carriage does not literally drive on stage to transport Cinderella to the ball. But the way it’s portrayed is so revolutionary that your jaw drops automatically. Cinderella, the latest epic production by the Dutch National Ballet (HNB) since Nutcracker and Mouse King in 1996, is packed with theatrical surprises that have been thought out down to the last detail. It would be a shame to give the game away – much more fun to go and find out for yourself.
Well alright, just one then. The magical tree that grows over Cinderella’s mother’s grave, watered by her daughter’s tears, is brought to life with projections in many different layers of film, until the moment where the love between Cinderella and the prince is sealed in marriage beneath its branches.
The magical tree is a good example of the cinematic approach to this Cinderella, which is co-produced with San Francisco Ballet. Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon and scenographer Julian Crouch based their version mainly on the fairytale written by the brothers Grimm and less on the better-known version by Perrault. Their faithfulness to the German version is shown through countless magical elements of ‘nature’, like the beautifully designed woodland and bird creatures that help Cinderella on her way. The sets and costumes alone (the Victorian masks are works of art in themselves) make this the ideal family show.
Despite being a magical fairytale, it is still a very human Cinderella, as a great deal of attention has been given to developing the characters. Anna Tsygankova is a modern Cinderella. She is no servile skivvy, but a self-aware young lady, who has unfortunately ended up in a situation not of her own choosing. As a high-spirited prince, Matthew Golding is confronted with his future responsibilities at far too young an age. Two like-minded young spirits seek one another out – and the shoe fits. That’s life.
The supporting roles are more one-dimensional, as we are used to from HNB’s previous version of Cinderella by Sir Frederick Ashton, and they provide the comic element. The fitting of the slipper is portrayed in a witty and moving game of musical chairs, where all the prospective brides take their chance – whether woman, man or bird creature.
One ‘but’ is the lack of a real dance showpiece for Cinderella and the prince, who have little to get their teeth into for a fairytale ballet. Their final display is very sweet and sugary, with no real choreographic fireworks, despite the spirited passion of Tsygankova and Golding. However, there is also a pleasing side to Wheeldon’s balletic modesty. His Cinderella is on a very grand scale, yet remains human on every level.
Noordhollands Dagblad, 18 december
Dutch National Ballet’s dazzling ‘Cinderella’
For a change, there are no dancers in drag as stepsisters, no mice and no pumpkin. Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s ‘Cinderella’ is refreshing, colourful and – above all – dazzling. Wheeldon’s inspiration was the ‘Cinderella’ by the brothers Grimm, in which the hazel (a magical tree in the Dutch National Ballet’s version) growing on her mother’s grave makes all Cinderella’s dreams come true. Wheeldon also gives the characters more depth. For instance, he has given the prince (Matthew Golding) the name Guillaume, and given him a loyal friend, Benjamin (Remi Wörtmeyer). When Guillaume’s parents send the prince out to deliver invitations to the ball (as it is high time he found a bride), he swaps clothes with Benjamin, who pretends to be the prince when they pay a call on Cinderella. The role of Cinderella is danced by prima ballerina Anna Tsygankova. She is charming, and once again wins the audience’s hearts right from the start. In contrast, her stepsisters Edwina and Clementine (Megan Zimny Gray and Nadia Yanowsky) appear to be truly spiteful bitches, who try their utmost to win the heart of the prince. So they are disappointed to find out at the ball that they have been directing their charms at the wrong man. But before the ballet proceeds to Act 2, there is a fantastic spectacle at the foot of the magical tree. Right from curtain-up, the scenery designed by Julian Crouch is amazing, but the stage set under the tree surpasses everything, as here too the costumes fire the imagination. From the tree appear the spirits of lightness, generosity, mystery and fluidity, who along with Cinderella bring Act 1 to its climax – the carriage atop which Cinderella evokes associations of a winged goddess on a chariot.
At the ball, the prince loses his heart to Cinderella, and Benjamin finds his true love in stepsister Clementine. Yanowsky has often proved a star in interpreting characters, and here too she succeeds in drawing all eyes to her role as stepsister. The same applies to Larissa Lezhnina, whose acting qualities as the stepmother may come as a surprise to loyal ballet audiences who are not used to seeing this side of her. Not only has Wheeldon bathed his Cinderella in romance. He also knows just when to add touches of humour, which are sometimes subtle and sometimes laid on thickly in the interaction between the stepsisters or when the stepmother makes a drunken fool of herself. The scene where the prince and Benjamin are searching for the girl who lost her slipper at the ball is hilarious. And unlike in the Grimm fairytale, stepsister Edwina does not get part of her foot chopped off to make it fit the shoe, but the stepmother lets fly with a hammer to cram the shoe onto her daughter’s foot. Choreographically, too, Cinderella is equally well constructed, as Wheeldon combines classical ballet technique naturally with modern movements. There is also a good balance between ensemble work and solos. And the four Fates who guide Cinderella are a nice invention. The Dutch National Ballet’s Cinderella is a real family show, which is well worth seeing more than once.
the times, 21 december 2012
Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon proves he’s the best in the business with his version of the enchanted love story
Wheeldon bases his story mostly on the Brothers Grimm telling, which means there is no fairy godmother, no pumpkin and no glass slipper. In its place we have a magical tree, which has been nurtured by Cinderella’s tears for her dead mother, and a quartet of male guardian angels who ensure that our heroine gets to the ball. He has also given his leading characters more of a backstory. We see the death of Cinderella’s mother — she coughs up blood before being decorously carted away to heaven — and how this loss has scarred her daughter’s life. We see the prince as a rumbustious young boy, racing around the palace with his chum Benjamin, an early signal that he will chafe against the stifling protocols of life as a royal, including the demand that he make a good marriage.
Wheeldon puts an unexpected spin on the music, mining the darker reaches of Prokofiev’s mood. Yet his choreography is bright and lyrical, elegant and humorous, and it knows how to ride big melodies and enjoy small jokes. The aroma of romance is built into swishing classical lines and buoyant, hopeful lifts, while the duets for Cinders and her Prince Guillaume (yes he has a name) feel as private and intimate as real life.
Key to the production’s success is the extraordinary stage pictures evoked by the British designer Julian Crouch, here making his first foray into ballet. His sets and costumes consume the stage with mouthwatering candy-coloured frocks, vivid architectural vistas and breathtaking masks that evoke strange creatures of the forest. At the end of Act I comes a stunning moment that sums up the simplicity and punch of this show: Cinders is carried away to the ball in a magnificent carriage suggested by nothing more than a few horses’ heads, a few giant wheels and a lot of wish fulfillment.
I saw two casts in Amsterdam, and both revealed a company of great depth and dramatic flair. One cast was headed by Maia Makhateli who offered a sweet heroine well matched by Artur Shesterikov’s passionate prince. The other cast was led by Anna Tsygankova, a revelation in the title role. She is a very clear yet expansive dancer whose strong presence on stage, allied to a sharp musical awareness, brings new definition to Wheeldon’s choreography. Her Prince was Matthew Golding, a dancer whose every move feels big and irresistible.
Making the most of his dancers is another of Wheeldon’s remarkable achievements, one that will stand him in good stead when he unveils his latest Royal Ballet premiere in February. (Debra Craine)