Dance review: Dutch National Ballet's Cinderella
Dutch National Ballet Grand Theatre
HK Cultural Centre
Reviewed: March 12
The Dutch National Ballet returned to the Hong Kong Arts Festival with a much-anticipated production of Cinderella created in 2012 by leading international choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.
Visually strong, the work has some original ideas, striking moments and an enchanting Cinderella from Anna Tsygankova, but suffers from being over-plotted and under-choreographed. It's a better show than it is a ballet.
Wheeldon has introduced changes to the fairy tale, which opens with the death of Cinderella's mother. A magical tree representing her mother's love sprouts from the girl's tears and four Fates materialise to watch over her.
The Prince is livelier than usual and has a best friend, Benjamin. In a nice subplot, Benjamin falls in love with one of the (not ugly) Stepsisters.
But promising ideas are not followed through. The Prince first meets Cinderella disguised as a beggar, yet neither recognises the other later on. The magical tree may represent Cinderella's mother but it's rarely seen and, let's face it, it's a tree, not a character - the classic Fairy Godmother works better. The approach falls between two stools. It's too light to generate pathos yet isn't a comedy, apart from a hilarious scene where the Stepmother (the splendid Larissa Lezhnina) gets drunk at the ball.
Wheeldon shows flashes of inspiration - notably in Cinderella's ravishing ballroom solo and her duets with the Prince - but much is mundane. Choreography must flow from music and Prokofiev's score follows a specific libretto. Cramming in so much extra plot means music intended to express one thing gets used for something else, so at times the choreographer is working against the composer.
The best part of the evening is Tsygankova's performance in the title role. A radiant dancer with an effortless technique and the rare gift of illuminating each phrase she dances, she is a joy to watch.
Note: This story was amended at 12.48pm on March 17 to delete a reference to Matthew Golding and remove a pre-supplied photo of Golding.