ARTS

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February 27, 2009

With new costumes and choreography, the slipper fits for UBallet’s Cinderella

Jeremy Martin / The Chicago Maroon

We all know the classic love story Cinderella. But in an age of online dating and pre-nups, the difficulty of finding true love may have made us weary of such naïve fairy tales. University Ballet’s rendition of Sergei Prokofiev’s Cinderella promises to breathe new life into the story.

UBallet began its adaptation of the Russian composer’s famous ballet in the spring of 2008 after finishing its performance of Le Corsaire. Megan Race and Michael Scalzo, members UBallet’s executive board and dancers in the show, said that their decision to choose Cinderella was guided by a number of concerns.

“It’s oftentimes a difficult process to pick a show because many classical ballets involve very technically difficult movements intended for professional dance companies,” Race said. “We usually look for Russian ballets because there aren’t very many copyright issues and we can adapt them to fit the ability of our dancers. We definitely take some artistic liberties.” To cope with some of the technically difficult parts of the Russian ballet, UBallet also commissioned Tony Delgado, a professional dancer, to play the demanding part of Prince Charming.

While some of the choreography has been altered to suit a college dance company, the dancers in Cinderella aim at the grace and technical precision of a professional ballet group. “We started rehearsal for Cinderella at the beginning of fall quarter,” Race said, “and we practice about three to four hours a week.” Scalzo and Race, as well as other dancers in UBallet, also practice privately in order to perfect their ballet skills.

With only three nights to practice on Mandel Hall’s stage before opening night, the dancers are rushing to resolve any technical issues, perfect transitions, and finish costumes. “The hardest part about this show is not the technical element, because we have practiced that for months,” Race said. “It’s putting all of it together into a fun show that is really the challenge.”

In order to personalize Cinderella, members of UBallet have linked together some of the dance numbers, such as the famous ball and seasonal fairy dances, to create a coherent show rather than a collection of dances. “Since Russian ballet is so technically difficult, we needed to make some changes,” Scalzo said. “And one of those changes was to make a good story that the audience can relate to.” Although the outlines of the classic story have remained the same, there will be more characters in certain scenes in order to make the show more exciting and interesting. In addition, the transitions between dance numbers will be very fluid to make it look more like a show. “One of the most important things about putting on a ballet is combining the dance numbers to make it more like a show rather than a recital,” Race said. She mentioned that the classic Cinderella ball scene in particular will highlight the dancing abilities of the group.

The costumes featured in the show promise to be dazzling as well. The dancers will wear traditional tutus, giving Cinderella a classical ballet feel, while more specialized costumes worn by Prince Charming and the extras will stay true to the fairy tale. Costumers have updated some of the pieces in UBallet’s very large costume closet and have brought in some new ones as well. “Costumes are a very collaborative process,” Race said, “We generally try to find costumes we can use again and then update them to match the show and the dancers.”

Fairy-tale love stories may seem a little trite, but UBallet’s performance promises to reinvigorate our sense of romance. Cinderella promises visually dynamic and vibrant dance numbers that showcase the authenticity and refinement of UBallet’s talent. Even if your heart has been hardened by our cynical world, let UBallet take you back to your childhood when anything seemed possible, even the idea that everyone will find their own prince (or princess) charming.