Let's go to the ball! You're about to watch Cinderella ... turn the lights down low, put on something luxe, prepare a drink of something lovely and, before the curtain goes up, skim through this viewing guide for a bit of background, some moments to watch out for and some fun facts. Here's one to start things off - did you know that the famous 32 fouettés, the series of flashing turns seen in iconic ballet moments like the Black Swan Pas de deux, were originally performed by the Italian ballerina Pierina Legnani in the 1893 version of Cinderella?
Cinderella is proudly brought to you by our Learning Partner, La Trobe University.
WHICH VERSION IS THIS?
We're very proud of our Cinderella, created especially for our company in 2013 by hot property Alexei Ratmansky - so proud that we've taken it all around Australia and the world. Ratmansky was the director of Bolshoi Ballet, and is currently artist in residence at American Ballet Theatre. Companies around the world vye to have him choreograph works for them. Why? Because he has an almost unique ability to build on the centuries-old tradition of the classical story ballet while speaking in a fresh and accessible voice to modern audiences.
His version of Cinderella follows the familiar fairytale. You might be less familiar with the section where the Prince searches throughout the world for his lost love. It's a one-liner in the fairytale, but in the original Russian versions of the ballet, it was fleshed out so they could have lots of exotic dances representing the different countries the Prince visits. Ratmansky takes up this tradition - and makes it highly sensual. Read the full synopsis of the ballet here.
Ratmansky's choreography may look flowing and effortless from the audience, but it's full of unusal challenges. When dancers talk about Ratmansky’s choreography, one word comes up over and over: ‘body’. In ballet parlance, this means taking steps to their fullest expression: bending at the waist, going right down to the floor, using your lateral space. Ratmansky always asks for more and then more body. He also fills each musical phrase with a flurry of steps in unusual combinations; the dancers need both mental and physical agility to keep pace.
WATCH OUT FOR: Cinderella and the Prince having 'conversations' with their arms and hands as they dance together. They even have a lovers' tiff during their final pas de deux, which has to be a first in a romantic story ballet!
FUN FACT: For the Prince's first explosive entrance into the ballroom, Ratmansky told the dancers, "I want you coming out like you're driving a Lamborghini."
DEEP DIVE: Speaking Ratmansky - our dancers on the challenges and ecstacies of dancing CinderellaLana Jones and Daniel Gaudiello. Photography Lynette Wills
WHO DANCES THE MAIN ROLES?
Lana Jones and Daniel Gaudiello are both former principal artists of The Australian Ballet. Both are unusually versatile, excelling in both classical and contemporary works, which made them well suited to take on the classical-with-a-twist challenges of Ratmansky's work. Gaudiello was the original Prince and danced the world premiere of Cinderella in 2013. A couple of years later, David McAllister's production of The Sleeping Beauty joined Cinderella in The Australian Ballet's pantheon of blockbuster hits. Jones danced Princess Aurora in the world premiere - perhaps you saw her dancing this role when we screened The Sleeping Beauty to kick off our digital season. (Missed it? You can catch it on iTunes or nab the DVD.)
WATCH OUT FOR:
- Jones' mastery of mood and movement in the solo that opens the final act, where Cinderella reminisces about the ball, falls into despair and grief, and finally has a kind of tantrum where she drums her feet on the floor.
- Gaudiello's agility and ballon (a bouncing-ball quality) in the Prince's 'looking for Cinderella around the world' solo, which requires hurtlingly fast footwork.
FUN FACT: Lana and Daniel are married in real life, and have a son, Velasco.
WHO WROTE THE MUSIC?
Sergei Prokofiev is more generally known for his swooningly lush Romeo and Juliet. But given that he was forced by the Soviet regime to reorchestrate that piece, it could be argued that the Cinderella score is the one that conveys the full sense of his brilliance and originality. Many people are surprised by the darkness and angularity of this score. It's masterfully orchestrated and uses the 'colours' of different instruments to flesh out the characters. Cinderella has three themes - the first, that opens the ballet, is bleak and forlorn; the second, in sunny C Major, denotes her wonder and new love; the third, making much use of the flute, conveys her innocence and goodness. All of these themes develop as her character evolves through the story. The Prince's music has bold, bright brass; the Stepsisters have tuba and contra bassoon, creating an ugly, lumbering sound.
Listen out for: The first time the Stepsisters appear on stage, there's a vicious attack role on a tambourine as they turn on Cinderella.
Fun fact: Like Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev uses the harp, the celeste and shimmering 'tremolo' strings to denote magic. You'll find these effects whenever the Fairy Godmother appears or when her spells are at their height.
Deep dive: Our Music Director and Chief Conductor Nicolette Fraillon takes you through the score in fascinating detailHalaina Hills and Ingrid Gow. Photography Jeff Busby
WHO DESIGNED THE SETS AND COSTUMES?
With Parisian designer Jérôme Kaplan on board, this was never going to be a standard-issue, saccharine Cinderella. Kaplan took his inspiration from the 1940s, when Prokofiev wrote his score, and peppered his design with allusions to beloved Surrealist artworks - Magritte's bowler hats, Dalí's Mae West Lips sofa, Schiaparelli's shoe hats. The women at the ball wear sleek satin pant suits that Marlene Dietrich would give her last ostrich feather for, and Cinderella dazzles in a golden gown remiscent of Dior's New Look, which swept aside the fashions of the 40s. But perhaps Kaplan's greatest triumph is the gloriously inventive suite of designs for the Planets who sweep Cinderella off to the ball. Pumpkin coaches are so passé!
Watch out for: What happens to the topiary and the moon in the palace garden when midnight strikes. Oh, and the shoe stool at the start of Act III.
Fun fact: The ballroom sets were inspired by St Petersburg's Winter Palace. The material used to give the effect of malachite and marbled pillars - over a kilometre of it - was machine-printed then finished by hand.