I went to see Prokofiev's Cinderella at BAM on 1 May, production of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, choreographed and directed by Jean-Christophe Maillot, and I was unusually disappointed.

I don't mind an effort at innovative revisionism. The story shifted its interest from the step-mother and the step-sisters to Cinderella's relationship to her absent mother in the identity of the fairy godmother. I didn't mind that; it explored an interesting twist in the story. Prokofiev's music in the recording was tampered with. I was willing to fogive that.

But the dance was a pantomine on the run. It relied heavily on pantomime, and that means on the expressive forms of the upper body, especially the movements of the arms, however choreographically abstracted and thus athletically strained. There were some interesting innovative postures in individual dancers. But the dynamics derived mostly from the dancers running about this way and that. Only a few of them had toe shoes on and danced on pointe.

I am a balletomane, I admit. If a performance is designated ballet, I expect much more footwork in general and dancing on pointe from female dancers, ballerinas. This is because it's the footwork that is difficult. While I can simulate arm movements even if badly, the classical ballet footwork is totally beyond me to imitate, and that's what I admire when I watch a ballet. It is the footwork that, when beautifully and expressively executed, takes my breath away.

I like modern dance, too. But whereas modern dance by and large focuses on the dancers' strength and power, their athleticism, ballet aims to achieve grace by dissimulating the requisite strength. Therein lies its extraordinary beauty.

Maillot's Cinderella, for me did not deliver the dynamism we admire in the best modern dance. It was a pantomime enacted by the dancers constantly on the run. It was boring.


T. Kaori Kitao, 05.02.03

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