Ballet isn’t most people’s thing, and I get that. Sitting through hours of no talking makes it easy to get lost or bored. If you go to see Christopher Wheeldon’s production of Cinderella (English National Ballet), however, this won’t be the case.
I found Cinderella to be very plot focussed and, therefore, easy to follow. The scenes, especially in the first act, were concise and brief, meaning you weren’t sat watching people dance for too long at a time. Due to the nature of ballet, it is never anything less than beautiful to watch.
I did feel though that the actual choreography limited the dancers from really wowing the audience. The dancers were undoubtedly talented, but I didn’t find myself sitting there with my jaw on the floor. Instead, I was thinking: “I could probably do that twirl” (which obviously I could not; it just looked simple instead of mind-blowingly difficult).
On the other hand, the less complicated dance moves meant I wasn’t overwhelmed trying to follow the dancers. I was able to appreciate the dancing as well as focus on the plot. This made it more engaging and, at times, I even forgot there was no speaking. In between the scenes, there was always an exciting set-change, which helped to break up the show.
Actually, the sets and staging were probably my favourite aspect of the show. They were creative, unique and reflected the magic of the story perfectly. For example, at the start of Act Three, the Prince (Joseph Caley) and his friend Benjamin (Jeffrey Cirio) are trying to discover the owner of the lost golden slipper (if you don’t know the story of Cinderella by now, what are you doing?).
A row of chairs were set up downstage; the ensemble dancers played a sort of organised musical chairs on them, each moving up a seat when the slipper didn’t fit the person before. Then, after not finding the perfect fit, the dancers cleared the stage and the chairs were mysteriously and slowly pulled up by transparent strings and suspended above the stage in an arch for the rest of the show.
The most creative scene, and probably my favourite, was at the end of Act One, when Cinderella (Erina Takahashi) prepares for the ball. Instead of the classic fairy godmother, we were introduced to spirits of Lightness, Fluidity, Generosity and Mystery. Each cluster of spirits wore a different colour, so when they all merged for a group number, the stage transformed into a kaleidoscope of colours.
The act closed with the dancers joining together to form a human carriage. Some held spinning wheels, others wore elaborate horse masks, and the rest held up Cinderella. She had a massive attachment to her dress, and from the help of some wind machines, it billowed outwards, creating the appearance of a round pumpkin-like carriage. Absolutely magical.
This performance as a whole ticks all the boxes for an accessible and enjoyable show to ease you into more serious ballet. Aside from the aforementioned easy-to-follow plot, there were also some comical aspects, which is unusual for ballet, but definitely makes it less serious and great for all ages.