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Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009

‘Cinderella’ Worthy of Love at Milwaukee Ballet

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Michael Pink, Milwaukee Ballet’s artistic director, has choreographed an entirely original version of Cinderella to open his company’s 40th season.

He speaks with great feeling for the fairy tale, which may be the world’s oldest. A 2,000-year-old Sanskrit version exists of the story of the orphaned girl who suffers great injustice but is recognized at last as worthy of love.

Pink’s all-new choreography will reveal the serious heart of the story while remaining a ballet for all ages. His version will open with a desperate Cinderella at the funeral of her mother. Although the girl is given to the custody of a cruel stepmother and selfish stepsisters, the spirit of her mother appears in a tree, scattering autumn leaves, protecting her daughter even after death.

Pink has also added a guardian angel character, a servant named Jack, who leads the girl past the cindersof the fireplace to an enchanted garden where mom’s spirit appears in the role of the godmother. There, children dressed as bearded gnomes will join grown-up dancers in a Nutcracker-like series of divertissements involving the making of glass slippers, a ball gown and a coach from a pumpkin brought by Jack. Mom and Jack will continue to protect Cinderella through the wellknown trials that follow.

Since the oldest tales often contain bird imagery, Pink has added a live, caged bird, a gift to Cinderella from Jack, to represent her good heart. At the end, as Cinderella is released from her prison, so the bird will be released. Unfortunately, city of Milwaukee and Marcus Center regulations will prevent an actual flight.

Although parts of Prokofiev’s score for the ballet sound almost cartoon-like in their narrative character, it’s not always clear what Prokofiev meant, and important parts of the story seem to have no music, as if they were left out of the original Russian version. Pink spent many hours rearranging the score to serve his vision.

From a 2001 production, the Ballet owns beautiful 18thcentury costumes and a full set of props. However, to support the poetry of this version, new scenery has been designed in the form of movable trees, and new costumes have been created for the children, Jack and Cinderella’s mother and stepmother.

Pink will follow the tradition of casting men as the stepsisters. He’s danced one himself in the past. But he’s choreographing the roles without drag jokes, taking the characters seriously.

Cinderella will be performed at the Marcus Center on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 22-24, at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, Oct. 25, at 1:30 p.m.