Dance: She knows a good 'un when she sees him


John Percival
Thursday 17 December 1998 00:02

THE HERO of Peter Darrell's ballet Cinderella is the quiet, gentle Prince Ramiro, who is more interested in books than court occasions; you could almost imagine him talking to the plants in the palace gardens which form a major part of John Fraser's gorgeously pretty designs. A fortuitously appearing good fairy persuades him to exchange disguises for a masked ball with his more flighty equerry Dandini, which fools everyone except Cinders. She knows a good man when she sees one, and deservedly gets him in the end.

Making the ballet, nearly 20 years ago, Darrell and his musical collaborator Bramwell Tovey took some of their inspiration from Rossini's opera La Cenerentola, the rest from other versions of the story and other Rossini music (opera ballets and late piano pieces). This welcome revival by Scottish Ballet shows again how well they succeeded in blending fairytale magic, traditional fun and real-life romance.

The comedy is lightly handled: no ugly sisters here but a handsome though nasty pair of stepsisters. And Cinderella, although put upon by her family, is no drudge but a pretty girl who gets her own invitation to the ball and then sees it torn up by stepmother, who thinks her not grand enough. What this Cinderella has, more than any other version, is a stream of vivid, attractive, expressive and virtuosic dances that tax the dancers but also show them off beautifully.

Darrell had a brilliant gift for story-telling, and each dance episode pushes the plot along while also throwing light on the characters. Like another of his ballets that was revived earlier this year, The Tales of Hoffmann , the work suits Scottish Ballet's dancers well and gives them a big, classic show that is uniquely theirs.

It is incredible to think that the company was threatened with closure not much more than a year ago. It looks in good shape, and from the strong first-night cast nobody would have guessed that two principal dancers had to drop out through injury only days earlier (they are expected back soon).

Yurie Shinohara shows a sweet, touching sincerity as Cinderella, her dancing always shiny bright, and delightfully grand in the big final duet, where Campbell McKenzie's partnering makes the most startling lifts look easy. Campbell subdues his naturally big, assertive personality in the Ramiro role, but loses no edge from his strong dance exuberance, which is well matched by Yi- Lei Cai's swift, smiling agility as Dandini.

Anne Christie, Elspeth Shaw and Linda Packer get a lot of fun out of Cinderella's monstrous step-family. And, as always, Darrell's choreography makes much of the whole supporting company, who somehow convey the impression of an enormous cast as they fill the stage with wide-ranging corps de ballet numbers or a dazzling sextet dressed as exotic birds to entertain the guests at the ball. Whoever takes over shortly as Scottish Ballet's new artistic director has a fine base to build on, both in repertory and in artists.

Booking 0131-529 6000; 21-24 Dec

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