I loved the Disney Cinderella movie as a child. Still do. That poignant duality of evil and silly so prevalent in the old Disney films is tuned to a fine art in the 1950 classic. Cinderella's deep grief is hammered out in eerily realistic cartoon facial expressions, her mice sidekicks' vaudevillian antics moving Cinderella through her daily routine of physical and emotional abuse. As a kid it was mere entertainment but in adulthood we recognize the parallels between Cinderella's struggles and those of so many of our neighbors. In this world of blatant social inequality, the most talented and humble are often overlooked. And only in stories do we get a Fairy Godmother to save the day.
Sometimes I like to get lost in a fairy tale like this, just for a couple of hours, so I can regroup my inner Gus Gus and keep fighting the good fight. Two and half hours of Prokofiev and countless glittery tiaras later (even my favorite communications director wore one), I was revived. Kent Stowell's Cinderella, premiered by Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1994 and performed again this season, is the ballet lover's ballet. It is long, it sparkles, and it shows off the very best classical ballet technique has to offer. Stowell's version takes full advantage of Prokofiev's big waltzes: well-synchronized groups of corps de ballet members in bright costumes sweep in large circles around the stage, so happy and grand the ballroom essence fills the theater. It is a celebration of dance as much as it is a telling of the classic story. Laura Tisserand's Fairy Godmother/Memory Mother was strong and delicate, her dainty fairy qualities interspersed with astounding leg extensions. Tisserand will always be one of my favorites and not just for her passionate dancing: a mother to a young child and a business owner as well as a principal dancer, Tisserand's strength and grace on and off the stage astound me (I can gush, this is my very own blog).
Ben Griffiths' performance as the Jester made me realize that there's a lot more whooping and hollering at ballet performances these days, and thank ye gods! Griffiths' Jester showcases his very best: incredibly high jumps, quick, perfectly-landed turns with multiple revolutions, and an unrivaled humor and artistic expression. Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan and Price Suddarth as Columbine and Harlequin received an equal number of well-deserved whoops--their onstage chemistry and presence energized a packed McCaw Hall.
And last but definitely not least is principal dancer Noelani Pantastico's Cinderella: perfectly gentle and kind but with a fervor for love and adventure that transforms her into the most convincing hero. To the very point of her curved foot, every aspect of Pantastico's dancing is finely tuned. With Seth Orza as an appropriately strong and charming Prince, Pantastico's Cinderella made it possible to disappear, just for a while, into a world where the ending is always happy and just.