x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

The ballet slipper fits for Turning Pointe Youth Ballet

One of the UAE's youth ballet groups will be performing Cinderella in Dubai this weekend. Anna Seaman gives us a preview

The Norwegian dancer Minttu Vilarharju rehearses her role as Cinderella. Courtesy Guy Daniel
The Norwegian dancer Minttu Vilarharju rehearses her role as Cinderella. Courtesy Guy Daniel

Only a few months ago, the acclaimed Moscow City Ballet company performed Tchaikovsky's classic The Sleeping Beauty on stage in the Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre (Ductac). Now, this weekend, those very same boards will be trod by the students of the Turning Pointe Youth Ballet (TPYB) company for a performance of Prokofiev's Cinderella.

The 106-strong company will perform a shortened version of the fairy tale, which will be held over four one-hour shows on Friday and Saturday.

"It is short, sweet and really colourful," says Donna Dempsey, the show's producer and the principal and founder of the Turning Pointe Ballet School. "We have beautiful and graceful performances from Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother as well as very funny scenes from the Ugly Sisters who will be dressed in bouffant wigs, prosthetic noses and elaborate make-up. There is something for everyone."

Aimed at families with children from 3 and up, the show will be a fun day out for all, Dempsey says. "It is a dramatic and professional performance and afterwards, Cinderella in her ballgown [or tutu] and the Fairy Godmother, whose face will be covered with a sheen of glitter, will come and greet the children and meet the audience. This adds to the magic of it all," she says.

A glass slipper

In place of an actual glass slipper, when Cinderella flees from the ball at midnight she will leave behind a crystal-clad pointe shoe that will be found by the Prince. The good news for the dancers from the TPYB is that the much-coveted role of Cinderella was cast twice, so the shoe will be slid on to the feet of the Norwegian dancer Minttu Vilarharju and the Japanese dancer Yui Watanbe, who will be sharing the role over the four shows.

The magic wand

The Fairy Godmother will be portrayed by the British dancer Amelia Dolan and the British-Japanese dancer Bronwen Dawson. When the Fairy Godmother waves her magic wand, a team of 20 dancers will flutter from the end of her wand dressed in lilac tutus and covered in sparkles. Similarly, when the Fire Fairy emerges from Cinderella's fireplace, 20 small sparks will dance around her dressed in red tutus and tulle flares. "The costumes are one of the biggest parts and one of the most complicated aspects of it," says Dempsey.

Libby Johnson, one of Turning Pointe's 10 full-time teachers, was in charge of all the costumes. Since casting began in October last year, she has been sourcing everything from the most major materials to the smallest detail.

Much thought has been put into the choreography as well. Helen Ainsworth was brought in as the show's artistic director and she has worked on the adaptation for the score and the complete routines for all the dancers. The company have 14 rehearsals leading up to the show but only one full technical and dress rehearsal. "It is a real production and a lot of hard work," says Dempsey. "But the positive comments we get on the day are amazing and the kids have such a great time that it is all worth it."

The turning point

This is the third annual full-length classical ballet production for the TPYB, the performing branch of the school that Dempsey founded in 1995. A qualified ballet teacher, Dempsey was teaching at schools in South East Asia before coming to Dubai and starting classes for small children, taking them through their professional exams. The school began to expand and now there are more than 2,000 pupils instructed by 10 full-time teachers at 30 studios across the city. Although it teaches 90 per cent classical ballet, the school also gives classes in hip-hop, street jazz, Zumba and Glee, which is musical theatre combining the disciplines of dance, singing and acting. She says most of her students are western expatriates but they have a lot of children from the subcontinent and some Arabs.

"We consider the time in a child's life when they start school as a turning point and this is also often when dance classes begin, so this is why we chose the name," says Dempsey.

Cinderella is at Ductac tomorrow and Saturday at 2pm and 5pm. For ticket information visit www.turningpointe.ae


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