Review: ROH Ballet Cinderella

The 1948 Prokoviev-Ashton Ballet Cinderella is back with a revamp.

Ryoichi Hirano and Sarah Lamb in Mayerling. © Helen Maybanks, courtesy the Royal Opera House

The costumes

The new costumes of the ROH Ballet Cinderella are splendidly elegant, glittery and magical. More men in trousers instead of tights is refreshing. When did full-length budgie-smuggling become acceptable in ballet? Who is still okaying this convention? And why isn’t the Prince objecting to poncing around in a crop-top and codpiece? It’s so ick. And unnecessary. I’ve seen great men’s ballet costumes where the waistcoat goes down below the Nethers like most men’s jackets do. Women dance unimpeded in skirts down to the calves, don’t they? Where else are the men always more genitally exposed than the women…Thumbs up then to the face-lift.


The humour

LOL ballets are a rarity, and this is one. The Ugly Sisters, instead of being just mean, are portrayed as ridiculous. It must have felt necessary right after all the ugliness of war, to use the hard-won freedom to make a mockery of all that is hateful. They are everything ballet isn’t: offensive, ungainly, expressive, funny. They bring the circus, the panto, even Punch & Judy to the stage and the ‘straight’ dancers can only act bemused. These two Uglies were brilliant, adding some drag queen to the mix with their OTT style choices. I was privileged to see this production in the 1970s with Sir Frederick Ashton playing the shy one. My mother told me to never forget how lucky I was. He went on pointe, but the current lot didn’t. All dancers should have that choice.


The choreography

Very much in the classical tradition, Ashton has incorporated some new devises which wear thin after a while. I did find the fairy footwork unnecessarily fussy, the corps de ballet too Oxford Circus and the arm-head action too trenchant. I don’t see why things that aren’t working can’t be replaced or adapted. Nothing should be ‘Canon’.  It also felt very female-heavy, with men mostly shadowing, possibly due to a dearth of star male dancers after the war. As a result, there were minimal lifts and the women did most of the hard work, on pointe. Finally, I didn’t see how the seasons were relevant; the four bits of music could have been cut out or used for the fairies to get the party kit assembled.

Check out your nearest cinemas for the next ROH and National Theatre streams with tickets at a fraction of the cost, including behind-the-scenes interviews with stars and crews.

Tickets available from here.

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