Dance: Cinderella Chichester Festival Theatre

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The Independent Culture
The best thing to be said about Matthew Hart's new Cinderella for London City Ballet is that it adds a decent full-length production to the unenterprising repertoire that has dogged Harold King's ballet-on-a-shoestring company for most of its 17 years.

However, that doesn't stop you wondering why King decided to commission a Cinderella from Hart - the Royal Ballet's ebullient, twentysomething choreographer-in-the-making - in the first place. Or why Hart accepted a challenge for which he is not yet equipped.

What looks, primarily, like an arrangement of misconceived mutual benefit has resulted in a ballet that is likely to please LCB's loyal punters. And, despite its serious flaws - Hart's step-for-note response to Prokofiev's richly textured score, LCB's rather lacklustre dancing - the work is satisfyingly coherent.

The problem is that Hart is working in the shadow of Ashton's near-perfect 1948 Cinderella. This is also his first full-length ballet, as coincidentally it was Ashton's. He can't escape paying homage to Ashton, yet his own choreographic conceits aren't insightful enough to make you feel he has much to offer. He gives you a perfectly respectable ballet, but for anyone who knows and loves Ashton's version, Hart's production is a poor substitute. Much of its phrasing is riddled with fussiness yet empty - steps for the sake of steps rather than the service of the story. Hart gives the big waltz to a bunch of grasshoppers and dragonflies; and prolongs the slapstick encounters between the Ugly Sisters and Dancing Master / Prince beyond their natural comic life.

At Chichester, Jane Sanig's Cinders didn't look entirely animated until bowled over by Roger Van Fleteren's complaisant Prince. That Hart seems less at home with the ballet's dreamworld and magic than with its amusing grotesquerie is evident in the way he keeps putting the Ugly Sisters and their mother centre stage. But then these three characters are his most noteworthy creations - the sisters gradually revealing their innermost ugliness as we watch them becoming more and more like their mother.

n At the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe (01494 512000) to 25 Nov; Poole Arts Centre, Dorset (01202 685222) 27 Nov-2 Dec; Sadler's Wells, London EC1 (0171-713 6000) 16 Dec-6 Jan

SOPHIE CONSTANTI

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