APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV)
It’s 1945 Russia. Some kind of relief from World War II is needed. Russia is so supremely good at ballet, how about a ballet version of “Cinderella”? And so it happens, with masterful composer Sergei Prokofiev providing the grandeur and romanticism along with a dusting of humor in a tale known the world over for centuries.
That is somewhat what happened. And it rippled to Appleton on Wednesday night by way of a traveling ballet company that performs on the Russian elevated level.
Precise, clean, crisp, physical, splashy, with dashes of tricky and/or risky moves delivered smoothly – that’s the Russian elevated level.
A fun/interesting thing happened at the very end. The dancers took their bows in their choreographed ways, with the audience systematically applauding. ’Twas the required process, it seemed. And then “YEA!!!” – the American audience let out a spontaneous cheer for the Russian dancers as if to say, “We really like you!”
Russian National Ballet Theatre is filled with skill. Plugged into the broadly appealing story of “Cinderella,” the troupe nearly filled Thrivent Financial Hall of Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.
Performances were infused with nuance and flair. Cinderella at one point propelled herself across the stage flexing muscles to the tippy toe without quite touching her heels. The Fairy Godmother and Cinderella were each presented in grand lifts (like in the photo) more than once. The Prince sinewed (I made the word up) his way around the stage and regularly lifted Cinderella over his head, she striking a crossed-leg pose. Teams of four fairies and four couples from across the globe added elegance.
The Stepmother set off the humor, she being of overblown, pushy, selfish importance – all the stuff worth popping the balloon of. When the Stepmother wasn’t dismissing Cinderella, she was primping Cinderella’s squabbling stepsisters and generally making a fool of herself with the royal dance-master (a kind of harlequin) or the Prince. Such comic relief tickled the funnybone.
Colorful costuming was part of the “show,” from the Prince’s poured-on outfit to all the elegant and frilly and grandiose and exotic and fine-gown women’s wear.
The music of Sergei Prokofiev suits many purposes – for background for the flow of dance, for helping fill in the persona of a character, for taking the audience to far-off lands. Side thoughts, some questions: Did Prokofiev envision the movement of the dancers as he composed, did a ballet person suggest elements, did Prokofiev adjust his score as choreography came to life? In short, how does composing for ballet work?
Overall, this “show” followed the required elements of the story – the put-upon girl, her struggles with her stepmother and stepsisters, her love-at-first-sight with the prince at the ball and the stuff with the lost silver slipper and the love everlasting. Embellishments included the four fairies and four international duos to bring into play varied hues of ballet – to fill in the dance picture, so to speak.
Artistic license comes with Cinderella’s slipper. She always wears pointe shoes, never the slippers. But, suddenly, a silver slipper appears on the stage, and onward the story goes with all the to-do over fitting the slipper.
Prior to the performance, dancers in leading roles were named in an announcement. In the printed program, the company’s dancers are not listed. It’s not that anybody around here would know them, but, still, the dancers deserve credit. From the company site found online, they are listed below.
Source: Folk story from many origins (like Paul Bunyan is)
Creative: Music – Sergei Prokofiev; libretto – Nicolai Volkov; choreography – Rostislav Zakharov; stage version – Elena Radchenko; sets and costumes – Elizaveta Dvorkina; lighting – Marina Borodina.
THE VENUE: Thrivent Financial Hall is the main theater of Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on College Avenue in downtown Appleton. The capacity is 2,072. The seating area is in the shape of a horse shoe, with three balconies following the shape. The stage is 60 feet across and 40 feet high. The décor features Veneciano plaster walls with dark-stained cherry wood. In the oval dome ceiling is a 65-foot long chandelier that is reminiscent of the Art Deco era. The design includes ruby inserts in the opaque cream-colored glass. Flowing along the walls up to the chandelier are parallel metal pipes as if of a musical instrument. Flat walls in the front third of the hall are salmon colored, while red pleated theatrical curtains dominate the rest of the side walls. The white acoustic wing over the stage looks like the underside of a sci-fi spacecraft. The lobby area consists of lots of geometrics, glass and, on the ground level, a feeling of openness and spaciousness. The exterior of the gray building features gentle curves. A large glass skylight is reminiscent of a human eye.
THE NAME: Thrivent Financial has roots in a life insurance company that was chartered in 1902 as Aid Association for Lutherans, based in Appleton. The corporate name has been Thrivent since 2002.