Alberta Ballet’s “Cinderella” delivers grace, beauty – and laughter!

We certainly expect elegance and élan from a ballet, and Alberta Ballet’s Cinderella is an accessible family ballet that delivers all that – and more!  As a small but enthusiastic crowd gathered for the dress rehearsal of Christopher Anderson’s Cinderella, the show was introduced with an important reminder: don’t be afraid to laugh!

Cinderella, our elegant heroine, her dashing young prince, and magical fairy godmother, all deliver performances full of the classic beauty and grace that we have come to expect from ballet.  However, the vain and haughty step mother and her equally pretentious daughters, deliver us an unexpected jolt of comedy, with laugh-out-loud comedic dance sequences. This sense of playfulness makes this ballet great viewing for children and first-time ballet goers.

Photo by Paul McGrath featuring Artists of Alberta Ballet
Photo by Paul McGrath featuring Artists of Alberta Ballet

Charles Perrault’s 1697 publication of the Cinderella story (originally written in French) is the most commonly known version in the English-speaking world. It is this version of the ancient folktale that choreographer Christopher Anderson used as his main inspiration for this narrative ballet. The music for Cinderella was composed by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) who is widely acknowledged as a creator of musical masterpieces. The set and costume design come from the mind of legendary designer Peter Farmer (1936-2017).

Originally having its world premiere in Alberta Ballet’s 2017/18 season, Cinderella was Anderson’s first ballet for the company and his first full-length commission. “It holds a special place in my heart” says Anderson, who wanted to move away from the concept of a Prince rescuing a damsel in distress, in favour of creating a story about a heroine whose kindness and generosity are what help make her dreams come true (along with a special pair of shoes).

Photo by Paul McGrath featuring Artists of Alberta Ballet
Photo by Paul McGrath featuring Artists of Alberta Ballet

Adding to the family feel of this production is the inclusion of the “Children’s Cast”, 19 young dancers from the Alberta Ballet School Professional Division, who are dancing small roles in the ballet. The Professional Division provides academic and artistic training for dancers in grades 7 to 12, who are aspiring to a career in professional dance. One of these dancers, 12 year old Anna Li, spoke to the Calgary Guardian about her dance journey.

Anna Li
Anna Li, a young dancer in the Alberta Ballet School Professional Division

“To be honest when I first started dancing … my mom never thought that I was a dancer and I didn’t even think that I wanted to dance, but my neighbour was dancing at a studio and she wanted me to join her. I tried a class and I immediately fell in love”, said Anna, who will dance in all seven Calgary performances, in the role of “sprite”.  While this is Anna’s first time performing Cinderella, she has previously danced with Alberta Ballet in productions of The Nutcracker.

When asked about the importance/goals of incorporating youth into big productions, Taryn Klassen, the Head of Alberta Ballet Junior School, emphasized that having the opportunity to perform on stage alongside the company dancers is an integral part of their professional training. It offers the students a valuable insight into what it is like to dance with a professional company, and the process that is required to put on a professional production.

Anna Li and members of the Alberta Ballet Children's Cast
Anna Li and members of the Alberta Ballet Children’s Cast

“Our students look up to the company dancers, so to be able to dance with them and view their dedication first-hand is incredibly motivational” says Klassen. Anna agrees. “My favourite part about these performances is working with the company because they’re all so professional and skilled and it’s a really cool experience to be able to dance with them”.

Cinderella runs in Calgary from April 28 to May 7 and in Edmonton at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium from May 12-14. For tickets, visit albertaballet.com.