Amid a driving snowstorm Saturday evening, Ballet Spokane’s enchanting performance of “Cinderella” warmed the small audience in the Valley Performing Arts Center with magical illusions and comic delights.
Artistic director Janet Wilder’s choreography was well-suited to the abilities of the dancers on every level, but comedy overwhelmed the tenderness, the longing and the deeper sentiments inherent in this ballet. Wilder’s interpretation ignored much of the dramatic emotion, but her choreography highlighted contrasting characters and movement styles.
The most striking oppositions were Cinderella’s grace contrasted with the awkwardness of her stepmother and stepsisters, the lyricism of the seasonal fairies contrasted with the dramatic lines of the clock fairy and her minions, and the crippled old beggar woman who transformed dramatically into the spellbinding Fairy Godmother.
The ballet showcased several fine performances. Kari Jensen, in the role of Cinderella, and guest artist Todd Fox, as the prince, danced with confidence and grace. Jensen lacked emotional involvement in her role; however, except for some balance problems while partnering with Fox, she danced with elegance. Fox’s solos were compelling; his fine stage presence, notable. Their partnering has improved a great deal over their past performances together.
The most commanding performer was Phaedra Jarrett as the Fairy Godmother. A former principal dancer with the Oakland Ballet, Jarrett not only completely commands her movements but also commands focus on the stage by her very presence. I could not take my eyes off her.
Jarrett is a highly musical, mature dancer who fills the spaces between the steps with an elongated and self-assured style complemented by a strong dramatic persona fully invested in her role. In addition, her choreography of the departure scene – just before Cinderella leaves for the ball – utilized counterpoint at once vivid and compelling.
The outstanding character roles were acted and danced by Amanda Lochmiller as Cinderella’s stepmother and Jaimi McGuire and Marcy Ray as her stepsisters. They were garish and gaudy, self-assertive and contentious, yet delightfully despicable and uncouth. It is easy to overlook the dancing in such strong character roles, but McGuire and Ray sparkled as highly competent ballerinas.
The production was enhanced by multiple performances by the corps de ballet. Two young male dancers caught my eye. Ryan Callan and Patrick DesRosiers show promise of developing into very competent performers.
Two beautiful scenic backdrops and exquisite costuming also added to the charm of the ballet.
If you missed the Spokane performances, Ballet Spokane will perform “Cinderella” on Jan. 29 in Moses Lake. This enchanting production is worth the drive.
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