Lewisville — LakeCities Ballet Theatre had much to celebrate this past weekend. Not only did the company deliver clean technique and convincing character portrayals in its first full-length production of Cinderella at the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater last Saturday night, but the beautifully crafted and choreographed ballet also marked a milestone for the company with three sold out performances. The credit for such an achievement has to go to LBT Artistic Director Kelly Kilburn Lannin and her multi-talented team, including Choreographers Shannon Beacham, Shanon Tate, Deborah Weaver and Art Director Tom Rutherford.
While Lannin, Beacham, Tate and Weaver each brought their own unique flavor to the choreography they created for Cinderella (i.e. Lannin’s brain teasing allegro combinations, Beacham’s playful musicality and Weaver’s slower, more controlled movement choices), their dance segments followed a consistent thread that allowed the production to flow smoothly between various settings and characters throughout the course of story. Tom Rutherford’s incredible stage design which featured three-dimensional sets, colorful textured backdrops, dynamic mood lighting and one very large sparkly white carriage also succeeded in transporting audiences to a different time and place where mythical creatures reside and dreams really do come true. Kudos must also be given to Carla Mowery whose eye for color and detailing produced some of the most exquisite and well-blended costuming I have seen all year from a pre-professional dance company.
LBT’s retelling of Cinderella contains elements from both the Disney film version and the original ballet which premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1945 with choreography by Rostislav Zakharov and music by Sergei Prokofiev. LBT’s story begins with the passing of Cinderella’s mother depicted in two live action snapshots; one where young Cinderella (Morgan Holloway) embraces her parents (Grace Croxton and Chuck Denton) and the other showing Cinderella and her father mourning over her mother’s grave. While this scene did provide audiences some background information, for those more familiar with the ballet the story really took off once we entered Cinderella’s house. Here we encountered an older Cinderella who is basically now a servant in her own home after her evil stepmother and two wicked stepsisters moved in.
LBT Senior Company Member Madeline Hanly was an obvious choice to play Cinderella, with her fair looks, supple feet and willowy frame. But she proved early on in Act I that she also possesses the technical and theatrical skills necessary to pull off a leading role in a full length ballet. It also helped that her body was more attuned to her character’s quieter nature. Hanly’s feet hardly made a sound as she executed a series of pas de chats and tour jetes in her attempt to get noticed by the ballet master who has come to prepare the girls for the royal ball. Her consistent follow-through with every movement and breathy exhales led to some very picturesque moments throughout the show.
Viewers familiar with LBT’s advanced skillset and technical fortitude might have been a bit disappointed in the lack of dancing in the first two scenes. But what the scenes lacked in complicated choreography Carley Denton and Mikaela Seale made up for with their over-the-top facial expression and clumsy antics in their roles of the wicked stepsisters. The stepsisters’ love/hate relationship was plainly showcased through the duo’s linked hands during a series of bourrées followed immediately by a pushing match. Even while shoving each other back and forth Denton and Seale still remembered their technique and kept their movements sharp and robust.
The dancing steadily increased in the third scene as Cinderella’s fairy godmother (Michelle Lawyer) introduced her to the four seasonal fairies (Kelsey Rhinehelder, Faith Jones, Julia Tiller and Chloe Davis) and their woodland friends (members of LBT 2 and Ballet Conservatory’s pre-professional and children’s ballet programs.) Lawyer’s signature punctuated footwork and expressive upper body movements made her the ideal choice for the role of fairy godmother. Among the soloists Tiller gave the strongest performance with high octane jumping passes and solid fouette turns while Davis came in a close second with her beautiful body positions and endless chaine turns. Rhinehelder and Jones’ both struggled with finding their center throughout their solos, but still pulled off solid performances. The highlight of the first half was the fairy group variation led by Lawyer. Even though it was over much too quickly the variation was rhythmically exciting and performed in perfect unison.
The second act contained even more dance sequences, including the highly anticipated pas de deux between the prince (guest artist Ruben Gerding) and Cinderella (Hanly). Weaver challenged the dancers with a series of complex hand holds that had Gerding constantly moving Hanly in different directions while she seamlessly transitioned from one sustained body position to the next. Most notably when Hanly reached forward into a ponche arabesque as Gerding simultaneously rotated her body counter-clockwise. The couple’s various press up shoulder lifts and counterbalance poses were equally impressive.
The final scene in which the prince finds Cinderella by having each woman in her family try on the missing glass slipper lacked some of the theatrical content we saw in the first half, but still managed to tie up all the loose ends in the story. Cinderella and the prince’s reunion felt a little rushed and the fairy godmother’s blessing of the couple at the end was somewhat anticlimactic. A big finale number or another duet between Cinderella and the prince could be the solution for the next time the company performs the production. And audiences are already anticipating the company’s next showing.
» Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com