Antoinette Brooks-Daw as Cinderella and Sean Bates as Prince Mikhail in Cinderella – Photo – Emma Kauldhar
Northern Ballet have a well deserved reputation for moving the art of ballet forward with the bold moves that characterise cutting edge dance. This year they are celebrating their 50th anniversary year with a range of works new and old as they tour from their Leeds home base. Cinderella is a revived production that first emerged about five years ago, and has been refreshed and perfected for a new company of dancers and creative theatremakers.
This ballet does not take the familiar Prokofiev score but has music composed for the purpose by Philip Feeney who has worked with Northern Ballet for half of their 50 year existence. His music is just right for the romantic theme behind the Cinderella story, with a refreshing use of unusual percussion and instruments from around the world that gel perfectly together to create the mood for each act.
The Cinderella story is a familiar and often retold story, and has attracted the enthusiasm of several ballet companies – search ‘Cinderella’ on this site and you will read several reviews of diverse offerings. It is used so often as it is a simple heartwarming tale of adversity triumphed by love, and we will all fall for that.
With David Nixon choreographing we have come to expect something extra, and this show does not disappoint. Nixon makes the magic a big part of this ballet, using eye-defying magic tricks that keep us agog at their dexterity. There is a nice touch too as Cinder’s father Count Serbrenska (danced majestically by Mlindi Kulashe tonight) reappears as both the street musician and the modern version of the fairy godmother crucial to Cinderella’s big opportunity. The show is worth seeing for his performance alone, but there are many more to savour.
The carefree younger Cinderella is perfectly portrayed tonight by Rachael Gillespie, who gets the wide eyed innocence of a young free spirit just right, as she dances with the young Prince Mikhail (Kevin Poeung). After teasing from her Stepsisters Natasha and Sophia (Kyungka Kwak and Ayami Miyata) she sees the tragedy of her father’s death as he tries to recover her shawl that the sisters have thrown across a dangerous river. Her Stepmother (Minju Kang) blames her for her father’s demise and casts her into the servants quarters. Time passes and Cinderella is now a kitchen drudge, danced by Antoinette Brooks-Daw in a completely mesmerising and beautiful performance. Time for some more magic.
Act ll brings us a ball with a good amount of impressive formal dance numbers in a Fabergé themed hall until Cinderella finally arrives and of course captivates the Prince (Sean Bates). The subsequent search for the slipper-fitter has a few ups and downs, before a wonderfully elegant finale.
It would take a heart of stone not to be swept up in the romantic tale of Cinderella getting her Prince, even if some of the courting goals seem a little objectifying by modern standards, and this production is full of the magic of romance and the romance of magic. The dance is fresh and modern but still firmly in the style of traditional ballet, but with a colour palette vibrant and engaging. The setting is vaguely Russian, but could really be anywhere in the world as this tale has become universal.
This is a gloriously enjoyable performance from a dance cast whose enthusiasm reflects the faith that Northern Ballet places in them. The company train dancers and retain them as a company rather than hiring and firing with every show as some do. I am always surprised by how many people have never seen a ballet performance – if so, make this your introduction. You will be hooked, and return to the theatre every time Northern Ballet is in town.
© Julian Swainson 2019
Cinderella by Northern Ballet is at Norwich Theatre Royal until 30th November. Performances at 7.30 pm with 2.30 matinees on Thursday and Saturday. Go to www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk for more information and bookings, or phone 01603 630000