Half a century seems like a long time to wait for Prince Charming.
However, for the fourth time in 57 years, Fort Wayne Ballet will perform Cinderella with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic for its spring collaboration.
Executive Artistic Director Karen Gibbons-Brown says the ballet’s last performance of the fairy tale was during the 2006-07 season for the company’s 50th anniversary.
This time around, Gibbons-Brown says, the ballet performance just seemed like fun.
There’s something very sweet and very pretty about fairy tales, she says. It also helps introduce young people into dance.
Philharmonic Assistant Conductor Sameer Patel will lead the orchestra in performing Sergei Prokofiev’s score, which was composed for the Russian Bolshoi Ballet. The ballet debuted in 1945; the first Fort Wayne Ballet performance followed 11 years later in 1956.
Gibbons-Brown says the score was considered very cutting-edge for the time period. The melodious score has been a highly praised piece for international ballet companies for more than 60 years.
Gibbons-Brown says the score enhances the emotion of the story, from the slapstick comedy of the evil stepsisters to Cinderella’s magical transformation. It’s the feeling of the musical pieces that makes Cinderella timeless.
Sometimes we have this sense of despair, then we have hopefulness, and then we have a resolution, Gibbons-Brown says. We all have these feelings.
The choreography, however, has changed since the ballet’s first performance. Gibbons-Brown says she is restaging the choreography she performed growing up in Columbia, S.C., and as Cinderella when she performed as a dancer in San Francisco.
For the most part, our ballets are not written down like a musical score. It’s passed down generation to generation, Gibbons-Brown says.
Gibbons-Brown says more common versions of the ballet cast the evil stepmother and stepsisters en travesti, which means the characters are played by men to make them appear more intimidating and comical. But having the characters played by actual women makes the story more realistic, without losing the characters’ antics, she says.
In this version, the stepsisters are lovely and could have possibly won the prince, Gibbons-Brown says.
Also breathing new life into the production will be guest artist Justin VanWeest, a North Carolina native now professionally dancing in San Francisco. VanWeest will be sharing the role of the prince with faculty and principal dancer David Ingram.
Gibbons-Brown says a professional dancer like VanWeest strengthens the core cast of ballet company dancers and students.
When you supplement to that core, the dynamic changes and the art that is created is extraordinary, Gibbons-Brown says.
Following the matinee performances, the audience has the opportunity to meet the dancers and see the costumes up close at the Glass Slipper Party. Gibbons-Brown says the meet-and-greet is a great educational experience for the audience, especially children. She says she also enjoys the fact that the dancers can interact with the audience.
It’s an opportunity to make yourself real, Gibbons-Brown says.
Though the audience knows that Cinderella’s prince will eventually come and whisk her away to live happily ever after, the journey to the end always changes, Gibbons-Brown says.
With any live performance, it is in the moment, and there’s no way of recapturing the same feeling in the same moment, she says. There’s nothing like dancing to live music.