Character is all, in Alexei Ratmansky’s 2002 choreography of Prokofiev’s Cinderella for the Mariinsky ballet. Which leaves little room for the accoutrements normally associated with Perrault’s fairytale.
A scene from Cinderella at the Festival theatre, Edinburgh Photo: N Razina
These are characters which could have sidled out of a modern book of Russian fairytales, in the case of Elena Bazhenova’s clown-like fairy tramp. Or leapt from the gossip pages of the Moscow edition of Heat, in Igor Kolb’s arrogantly strutting and white-suited playboy who is more oligarch’s son than prince.
Which makes for an unabashedly contemporary take. The Act I creation of Cinderella’s home life is all hairstyles and learning the latest dance moves for the ball. Her father is a drunk, the stepmother and sisters bullies. The magic - and divertissements - come from the four seasons and their minions. The Act III divertissements are with prostitutes (both female and male) in the Prince’s search for Cinderella.
Visually, it is those dance moves, echoing cannily throughout the whole evening, which provide the magic. Ekaterina Kondaurova, Margarita Frolova, Tatiana Bazhitova as the stepmother and sisters give them ever-more exhausting and vainglorious interpretation throughout the Act II ball. They are stiffly formal for the corps-de-ballet when the Prince arrives. But most of all, they are a motif for Cinderella and the Prince’s utterly wonderful duets, with Diana Vishneva’s Cinderella floating through them in the shimmering breeze of her simple, pure white dress.
It is beautifully executed, if a little held back. And while the production has a subversive edge, there is nothing of that in Valery Gergiev’s clear and cleanly nuanced interpretation of Prokofiev’s music.