By Stephanie Wilks
April 27, 2012
The Cincinnati Ballet takes the stage at the Aronoff Center this weekend with a unique, double-bill production of The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Princess & the Pea. Throw everything you know about traditional ballet out the window because this show is lighthearted, comical, and fun.
For those unfamiliar with these two 19th Century Hans Christian Anderson fairytales, they’re basically tales of young love. And what would a love story be without a bit of conflict? The Tin Soldier and Paper Ballerina are repeatedly torn apart by a clever and jealous goblin who provokes two exciting “Center Stage” like acts where two men battle over a beautiful woman. Dawn Kelly, who plays the lead of Paper Ballerina, is convincingly expressive. She seamlessly portrays the excitement of attraction, the delicacy of love, and the sorrow of being torn away from her lover.
Patric Palkens and Maizyalet Velàzquez
The theater turns it up a few notches after intermission with The Princess & The Pea. Not only do four humorously problematic princesses compete for the hand of a prince, but also, two of the main female characters are played by men! Selahattin Erkan is the comedic scheming queen who plants a magic pea under 20 mattresses to determine if the woman her son loves is truly a princess. Erkan’s quick, unfeminine movements will undoubtedly elicit giggles from the crowd, while the lead Princess, played by Maizyalet Velàzquez, will steal your heart with her smooth, ultra feminine toes and endearing demeanor.
My favorite scene is “The March of the Mattresses,” where 20 ballerinas and danseurs clad as colorful giant mattresses fill the stage in a fanciful and harmonic routine set to a novel composition by musical genius Carmen DeLeone. If you listen closely to the music, you’ll hear parts of the “Star Spangled Banner” and the theme song from “The Godfather,” incorporated into this scene because of the movie’s fitting famous battle line, “go to the mattresses.”
Overall, these ballets are playful and modern. Children and adults alike will appreciate the vibrant costumes, grandiose sets, and amusing circus-like characters illustrating two classic fairytales through the expression of dance, expression that appears largely uninhibited by formality. The dancers are having fun, the musicians are having fun, and the tone is contagious.
As I stood for applause after Thursday night’s dress rehearsal, I couldn’t keep from thinking, ballets are supposed to be formal, not funny, right? And yet, I just witnessed a refreshing, modern, innovative ballet. As an artistic genre, ballet is a traditional, regimented form of dance, and you’d be hard pressed to see troupes at the Lincoln or Kennedy Centers taking many liberties with their performances. Perhaps modernization is becoming part of the appeal of the Cincinnati Ballet, a company that knows the foundations of the art form but doesn’t shy away from pushing the limits of tradition. Thankfully in doing so, we, as the audience, reap the rewards. But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself.
For tickets visit http://www.cballet.org/performances/2011-2012/princess.
*Photo credits: Peter Mullerto top ↑