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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lyons Brings Childlike Charm to 'Cinderella'




If the story of Cinderella were told by a child, the characters and props would probably include the narrator's favorite playthings.


With this concept in mind, French choreographer Maguy Marin created her version of the fairy tale in 1985. This week the internationally acclaimed work came to Russia and was performed at the Bolshoi Theater by the company that premiered it, the Lyons Op?ra Ballet.


Marin's Cinderella went off to the ball not in a converted pumpkin, but in what looked like Barbie's convertible. The fairy godmother was replaced by a sort of Power Ranger with a lighted lance. Dressed in doll-like masks, their bodies padded, all the characters resembled toys, and Marin's choreography brought them to life with movements that were expressive in their simplicity and occasional awkwardness.


For some Russian spectators, however, the break with the traditional cast and departure from classical ballet steps were just too much. "How could they bring something like this to the Bolshoi?" one woman complained to her date Tuesday after the performance. "This might be O.K. for a matinee for kids 12 and under," another said.


It is a pity that they missed the charms of this production, for there were many, beginning with Montserrat Casanova's delightful set, built in the shape of a giant tick-tack-toe board. The cubbyholes were settings for various elements of the story, from Cinderella's room in the bottom left corner to a spectator gallery of celluloid baby dolls in the upper reaches.


The strength of Marin's work was its dramatic cohesiveness, with the child's perspective consistent down to the most winsome detail - a high chair for the prince's throne, a grand entrance by ballroom guests who bump down the stairs on their rumps.


Led by Ksenia Kastalskaia in the title role, Pierre Advokatoff as the Prince and Marketa Pizakova as the Fairy, the Lyons dancers excelled in both solo and ensemble work, portraying their masked characters vividly in movement.


One could take issue, however, with Marin's decision to interrupt Prokofiev's magical score with canned doll talk and baby sounds. While the recorded kinderprattle may have worked as the background for the Power Fairy's initial solo, it grew tiresome as the accompaniment for a ballroom tussle over peppermint sticks. The Fairy also lit up, as did Cinderella's twinkling tutu and the Prince's blinking crown.


Marin's ball scene is destined to become a dance classic. The ballroom became a playroom, and instead of dancing gavottes and waltzes, the guests played hopscotch and jumped rope. The choreographer used the rope to underline each character's personality, from the lumbering stepsisters to the graceful Prince. The rope turned faster and faster as Cinderella skipped. She fell, and the Prince rescued her, just as he would later rescue her forever from the clutches of her stepmother and stepsisters.


Prokofiev's theme for the striking of midnight is full of genuine terror, perhaps a reflection of the war era in which it was composed. Marin echoed those fearful notes to dramatic effect in her choreography.


In the scene where Cinderella was warned about midnight, the Fairy and Cinderella advanced inexorably toward a clock while other characters stood trembling. When the clock struck 12 at the ball, the guests playing paddy cake began to clap out the fateful hour, and Cinderella lay on the steps to begin a slow, head-first, clockwise descent down the staircase.


Unforgettable as well was the Prince's search for the vanished guest.


Instead of the usual retinue of pages, he was accompanied by a comic, motley search party that included mechanical toys, such as Energizer bunnies playing the cymbals.


On the way to the happy ending, the Prince made some failed attempts to fit the glass slipper on a Spanish se?orita and an Arab girl, their roles danced beautifully by Mait? Cebrian and Maud Lardon, respectively.


The final, utterly charming scene envisioned Cinderella and the Prince with 20 children in tow.