The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Cinderella entertains for a modern audience

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Ross Brown

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Tower Season of Cinderella had a wonderful première in Wellington last night with Lucy Green in the title role, and Qi Huan as the Prince.
   Choreographer Christopher Hampson gave the ballet a magical quality, making it relevant for both traditionalists and modern audiences.
   To accomplish this, there was a mixing of times: the costumes were not from any one era, but brought together some of the more timeless aspects of recent history. The ball scene, in the second act, had eight ballerinas in dresses that brought to mind, among one nearby audience member, Travilla’s pink satin gowns in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; Cinderella herself contrasted the pink with a white bodice and tutu, sparkling more thanks to the Swarovski crystals in the design. (Of course, they were on the famed shoe as well.)
   The set design contributed to a similar feel: Cinderella’s home was largely what one would expect: backdrops with dark tones and old furniture, conveying what we would imagine composer Sergei Prokofiev’s own homeland to look like during the Soviet era; while the ballroom conveyed the idea of old Hollywood, with a city’s lights represented in the distance, bringing the 20th century into focus. There is one more set which I consider a spoiler, so audiences will have to see this for themselves. Tracy Grant Lord’s designs showed a love of ballet as well as an understanding of audience expectations; Nick Schlieper’s lighting set the mood wonderfully in each act.
   Expectedly, Green and Huan were the most elegant of the main stars (and their final scene touched the audience’s hearts), but audiences delighted in the over-the-top dancing (and to an extent the make-up) from the stepsisters, Clytie Campbell and Adriana Harper, in the opening night’s performance. Hampson’s ingenuity is in conveying clumsiness and humour in what is meant to be a graceful art form—but without ruining the flow of the ballet.
   The production was special but the pre-act scenes set the stage for what was to follow: while the audience went in to the St James, silhouetted figures were already on stage, for Cinderella’s mother’s funeral; another scene involving the royal cobblers, trying to duplicate Cinderella’s shoe, preceded the third act. Both featured Sir Jon Trimmer, in two roles, as the priest and the head shoemaker.
   On the eve of the Tower Season commencing, the Royal New Zealand Ballet also appointed two new trustees to its board: Ros Burdon, the former chair of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand, and Steven Fyfe, formerly Deputy Chief Executive of the ANZ National Bank.
   The Tower Season of Cinderella runs from August 3 to September 9, beginning in Wellington (till the 11th), then travelling to Invercargill, Dunedin, Napier, Palmerston North, Takapuna, and Auckland. More information on dates and tickets can be found at the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s website.Jack Yan, Publisher