The Washington Ballet’s production of Cinderella at the Kennedy Center is fun for the whole family. All the elements of storytelling combine, with incredibly impressive scenic design by James Kronzer and lighting by Tony Tucci, ravishing costumes by Judanna Lynn, and playfully intricate choreography by Artistic Director Septime Webre to the noteworthy music of Sergei Prokofiev. The ballet is choreographed in a balanced manner that showcases the many company dancers, as well as children of all ages, studio company members, and apprentices.
When the curtain rises, Cinderella (Maki Onuki) walks to a mysterious score through an intricately designed forest, which becomes more vibrant as the ballet goes on, with lifelike branches that cover the ceiling and become illuminated by the spectacular lighting. Soon, she is in her kitchen which prominently features a tremendous fireplace complete with a large chimney, a stunning chandelier with flickering candles, a large table, and high archways which the Stepsisters (Luis R. Torres and Zachary Hackstock) comically stumble in and out of, and the crowd loves it. Chaos ensues when the Dancing Master (Andile Ndlovu) attempts to teach them a dance to court the Prince at the ball. They depart for the ball with Cinderella’s father (Steven Baranovics) regardless and Cinderella is left in her rags in despair. That is, until her Fairy Godmother (Sona Kharatian) steps into the picture.
During “In the Garden,” the graceful Fairy Godmother (Sona Kharatian) sprinkles her magic as she invites the many talented dancers onstage, from adorable little buzzing bees to pretty butterflies, from putti, footmen and winter fairy attendants to roses and dragonflies. A beautiful twinkling background of stars offsets the trees and lovely moon. Fairies of the four seasons (Ji Young Chae, Emily Ellis, Morgann Rose, and Aurora Dickie) each dance energetically through their solos and duets, smiling and soaring through the air with jetés and twirling through the space with piqués. The vibrantly colored costumes introduce each type of dancer and they all get their moments to shine, and rightly so. This movement is full of fun and surprises.
“At the Ball” is pleasantly reminiscent of Versailles, featuring a hall of mirrors, sparkling crystal chandeliers, and dancers donning wigs and blue tails or tutus. The Court Jester (Jonathan Jordan) has amazing technique as he achieves great height and embodies the jovial humor and spirit of the character. When Cinderella (Onuki) presents her dance to the Prince (Jared Nelson), she flawlessly executes every detail, with outstanding turnout and perfectly pointed toes. Her perfect posture and poise carry her through the ballet, with numerous solos and lots of dancing. The Nelson has great presence and charisma, like that of a mature Disney prince as he sweeps her off her feet in an enchanting pas de deux in which the two share romance and moments of bliss. The ladies and gentlemen of the court partner and twirl romantically and soon the music crescendos and the clocks come down to reveal the stroke of midnight.
Striking choreography emerges during “In Search of Cinderella,” in which the Prince travels the world and encounters among other lovely dancers the two Tunisian Men (Tamás Krizsa and Jesse Lyons) and the Tunisian Woman (Ayano Kimura) who incorporate many seamless lifts as Kimura is quick and light on her feet with infallible extension and flexibility. Upon returning home, the Prince stops at Cinderella’s home in a last attempt to find the owner of her pointe shoe. When the Stepsisters each try on Cinderella’s slipper, head bobbing and physical humor abound, which the audience laughs along with in enjoyment. When it is determined that Cinderella is the Prince’s true love, they dance a magical pas de deux under the lavender lights with rose petals floating down. The company delightfully dances around them in the forest. If that doesn’t make you believe in fairy tales, I don’t know what will.
Cinderella finished with a standing ovation and cheering crowd. For an evening of entertainment and enchantment, take the whole family!
Running time: Two hours, including two intermissions.
Cinderella plays through March 24, 2013 at The Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater – 2700 F Street, Northwest, in Washington, DC. Purchase tickets online or call the box office at (202) 467-4600, or (800) 444-1324.