If I were the Prince in English National Ballet's Cinderella, I think I might be inclined to go for one of the Stepsisters rather than the bland heroine. They are altogether more sparky, and by no means ugly. But storytelling is not the point here. Michael Corder's choreography is never short of steps, if anything there are at times too many of them, and he arranges these into sequences with sense and taste. He even, although in a sometimes perfunctory way, indicates the main points of the action, and can rely on the fact that we know the story anyway. On the other hand, he seems to have no great flair for, or interest in, character. In other words, an able choreographer set loose on the wrong ballet.
Those Stepsisters, for instance: as played by Simone Clarke and Sarah McIlroy, they manifest plenty of facial expression, but their dances don't tell us much about them. Likewise, the Four Seasons Fairies, who play a large part in Prokofiev's music, were very nicely performed on opening night by the Misses Ramirez, Cao, Grigolato and Joanne Clarke, but their dances all look much the same – would they perhaps have been better differentiated if Corder had left them with their solos instead of giving each a partner and therefore duets instead?
The company as a whole is dancing better than for a long time; build up a few more principals and it will compare with its best recent period, under Schaufuss's leadership. Maybe Agnes Oaks let Cinderella become a little too mopey in her opening scene, and Thomas Edur as the Prince has little to do but jump about, partner the ballerina (which he does with evident pleasure) and smile – but I'm afraid that is endemic in Cinderella –ballets: the story's authors didn't even bother to give the hero a name. Cindy Jourdain looks sweet as the Fairy Godmother, but she is another one without a real role to perform.
The company's orchestra gave a capable account of the music, again maybe without so much character and stylistic contrast as Prokofiev might have intended. I find David Walker's designs more than a little dreary, especially the ball scene. Why has he put all those guests into dark blue uniforms? More attractively dressed, their frequent long dances would surely not have seemed so boringly repetitious. And Paul Pyant's lighting does go in for gloom; I suppose he might call it atmosphere.
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