A black twist on a classic fairytale

The Ballet of the Dolls is a dance company in North East Minneapolis. They perform pieces at the Ritz Theater and tend to push the envelope of creativity. Last weekend I saw my first show there “Cinderella”. It was a very dark, dramatic piece and I loved it. It was not a typical ballet but more of an expressive dance. This is not your Walt Disney “Cinderella” but it is a hugely creative take on a classic story that will grab your imagination and keep you thinking about it for days afterward.

“Cinderella” is a fairy tale classic that most people know. At a young age Cinderella’s father dies and leaves her in the care of her step mother. Unbenown to Cinderella’s dad, her step mother is cruel and treats Cinderella poorly. She must cook, clean, and take care of her step mother and two step sisters who are equally as mean. One day the family receives an invitation to a ball for the royal family in the town. The prince is to meet a woman and marry her. True to form, the step mother is rude and forbids Cinderella to go. Once the other ladies of the house leave, a fairy godmother comes to save the day. She transforms Cinderella into a beautiful girl and allows her to attend the ball. The only stipulation is she must leave before the clock strikes twelve. When Cinderella arrives all eyes are on her. The prince is immediately drawn to her and they dance the night away. Once it gets close to midnight Cinderella runs away leaving one glass slipper behind. The prince goes on a quest to find her and when he does, he makes her his wife.

This was my first time seeing “Cinderella” as a ballet. Unlike the movie and musical I have seen in the past, this version was much darker and intense. At intermission my friend Sara said “it feels like we walked into Tim Burton’s version of Cinderella”. All of the characters wore black clothes and wigs. The only person who didn’t was Cinderella. She had blonde hair which stood out as the good, pure one. Each of the others were dark and evil. Their makeup fit their attire as well. The set was very minimal with a few tables and chairs. The lighting was very dark as well. What drew me in were the movements, actions, and facial expressions of the dancers.

The step sisters and mother were my favorite roles. It seemed to me that the director gave them precise instructions on how to play the parts. The step sisters were incredible. One played the lanky sister. As unlikely as it seems, she waddled around the stage and flailed her arms to and fro. The other walked on her tip toes and had her hands to her side, pencil straight. The step mother (played by a man) was in a wheelchair. She moved around the stage incredibly well. All three of them had impeccable facial expressions. Since there were no words and only music, movements and gestures had to be executed to a tee. The three of them did a wonderful job of that.

The fairy godmother had a black partial-tutu and leotard on. Her wig was half black and half white. It made me think of the transition that Cinderella went from, darkness to light. In the beginning of the show Cinderella was in black clothes. Once she was transformed to go to the ball she was given a white dress. The two of them danced beautifully together. Cinderella’s leg extensions were lovely.

In addition to “Cinderella” The Ballet of the Dolls is doing “SINderella” through the end of the year. That show is another adaptation of the story in which Cinderella lives in a brothel. I’m going to see it on the 29th and am looking forward to doing a follow up piece on the differences. For more information on Ballet of the Dolls take a look at their website:

The Ritz Theater

www.ritz-theater.org/

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