x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

The Royal Moscow Ballet’s Cinderella draws on the force of a full orchestra and versatile dancers

Ekateryna Floria as Cinderella and Maksim Surov Surov playing her Prince, prove themselves to be outstanding ballerinas.

The Royal Moscow Ballet’s production of Cinderella includes slapstick and comic relief. Delores Johnson / The National
The Royal Moscow Ballet’s production of Cinderella includes slapstick and comic relief. Delores Johnson / The National

There are ample opportunities to watch ballet in the capital these days, but the chance to see a dancer from the one of the world’s most prestigious ballet companies, performing to music provided by a full orchestra, is quite a rare treat.

Cinderella, which runs until June 16 at Adnec, features Maksim Surov, the lead soloist from the Bolshoi Ballet, as the Prince. It’s the first public performance of Cinderella for the 27-year-old, who has been performing in lead roles for the Bolshoi since 2008.

This version of the timeless tale, by The Royal Moscow Ballet, is one of the largest ballet productions ever undertaken in the UAE, with a cast and supporting crew of more than 70, including 33 dancers and 30 members of the Royal Moscow Orchestra.

Ekateryna Floria, who plays the downtrodden maiden turned fairy tale princess, Cinderella, looks every bit the part, whether she’s dressed in rags or a glittering gown.

The two ugly sisters and their horrid mother, played by Sergey Skvortsov, provide comic relief with their slapstick antics. These male dancers playing female roles are larger than life in their gaudy costumes, and the stepmother evokes giggles from the audience when she takes a shine to the Prince’s aide. He comes to the family’s home to announce the ball and gets more than he bargains for when he is forced to duet with the family matriarch.

Cinderella’s worthy attributes shine through when a lady in a black cloak (the Fairy Godmother in disguise) comes to the house begging and is taunted by the stepsisters and their mother. Only Cinderella shows her kindness, by giving the beggar woman a pumpkin.

Apart from a few pumpkins, the only other prop used in this performance is a broom, which the witchlike stepsisters and their mother pretend to ride on. Later, Cinderella dances with the broom, pretending it’s her Prince Charming. So there is no golden carriage in this version, nor household rodents who magically turn into horses or coachmen.

Two backdrops, depicting Cinderella’s family home and the ballroom with the looming clock-face, set the scenes.

Quirky additions to this version of the fairy tale include a strangely sinister-looking bald man. dressed in black, who does a frenzied dance as the Fairy Godmother casts her spell on Cinderella, presumably representing the black magic she’s conjuring up.

After our heroine gets her duet with the Prince, the clock strikes midnight and Cinderella does a series of exceptional pirouettes in time to the chiming clock.

The Prince’s search for his fair maiden leads him far and wide – to five ballerina/belly dancers, who try on the fateful slipper to vaguely Arabian-style music. A Spanish flamenco dancer is next to see if the shoe fits, of course to no avail.

In the touching moment when the Prince finds the real owner of the slipper, his duet with Cinderella is delicately poignant.

The performers, particularly the stepsisters and mother, express their characters superbly through their movements and expressions. And Floria as Cinderella and Surov playing her Prince prove themselves to be outstanding dancers. However, at times, the arabesque and attitude of some of the background dancers could have been higher.

What was also lacking was the ambience one might have expected from an evening at the ballet. The spacious venue felt more arena-like than theatrical and the air-conditioning was cranked up so high that cardigans would be a necessity. The interval servings of fast food such as popcorn and sandwiches hardly seemed fitting for those who had made an effort to get dressed up for the occasion.

But whereas previous ballet performances in the capital have occasionally suffered from crackling speakers that at times drown out the music, having the ballet performed with a first-class orchestra – as its Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev, would have intended it to be – adds volumes to the show.

Cinderella is being staged as part of the Abu Dhabi Summer Season at Adnec, Abu Dhabi, every day, except June 11, until June 16. Tickets cost from Dh199 at www.tixbox.com. For more information, visit www.alchemy-project.com

artslife@thenational.ae