The Maryinsky Cinderella at Zellerbach

7 Oct

Maryinsky Ballet’s final performance of Alexei Ratmansky/ Serge Prokofiev Cinderella 2002 production was the October 4 matinee, entailing BART-51B AC 41B Transit travel, watching UCB students flash their cards at the bus driver, her then peeping five or six at most stops along College Avenue; many were laden with Sunday groceries

The Telegraph and Bancroft stop is still north of the Telegraph intersection; who knows whether it will move west to its former location, still cordoned off by hurricane fences and scattered motorized equipment. But, blessings, now a cement incline connects to the plaza outside Zellerbach, past the store, outside Eshelman Hall, now with expansive glass facing the plaza. It’s ideal for students working out routines. Rows of bicycle stands were added plus both steps and incline not only from Telegraph, but also from Bancroft past The Bear’s Lair, now housed in the western part of Eshelman; yet another incline leads to the Zellerbach will call window.

The Ratmansky Cinderella was commissioned when the choreographer was 34. For this first major assignment, Ratmansky chose the Depression, Russian version, as time frame visually emphasizing the edgy smart of the period, the totally bourgeois surroundings of the our scullery heroine, danced by small willowy brunette Nadeshda Batoeva. The setting is emphasized by metal scaffolding stairs and landings mid stage, both sides The curtain, an intricate geometry of narrow black vertical domestic buildings with peaked roofs, evokes the Fokine Firebird finale curtain, minus color. It is reasonable to speculate Ratmansky’s stage structures provided Boris Eifman with ideas for Red Ballerina and Rodin.

The Matinee repeated a number of the opening night casting Stepmother and a daughter, Khudishka, Anastasia Petushkova and Maragarita Folova as well as the Fairy-Tramp, Elena Bazhenova, and Cinderella’s Mother and Father, Lubov Kozharshkaya and Andrey Yakovlev. Repeating the seasons, Spring – Vasily Tkachenso,; Summer,- Alexey Popov; Autumn – Kostantin Ivkin; Winter- Andrev Soloviev with his white wig. All four, uniformly slender, torsos a traditional sculptor’s dream, executed commanding jumps and pirouettes. The Fairy Tramp, a comic wonder, a overburdened rotund figure, was clearly a mensch.

Anastasia Petushkova as the stepmother was tall, brash, pushy and abusive,this side of evil.Possessed of an orange wig, floral housecoat, black skirt and subsequent black for the ballroom act, she plunged unthinking in her haste with Margarita Frolova as Khudishka and Sofia Skoblikova as Kubishka, equally needy. One was able to wheedle coyly, the other thrust herself bodily, the trio object lessons in social behavior we love to loathe. Only superior technique and the innate classical tradition avoided the blatantly vulgar.

Nadeshda Batoeva, twice Cinderella at the Zellerbach, possesses a physique to arouse empathy, scrubbing motions abounding. Appearing at the ballroom in modest white embellished with brilliants, a flowing Empire romantic length gown, hands over her face in disbelief, the pause by the ballroom attendants, then the Prince, was just what one believes a fairy tale can express. The subsequent exchange between her and the Prince included pauses, retreats, a tour around two well-placed columns, an understandable hesitation – “what am I getting in to” – as growing rapture began to manifest. One passe Batoeva executed, as partnered by Shklyarev, also twice dancing the Prince, captured the “I can’t really believe it’s happening,” before she is given the stage to dance first in the latest jazzy fashion, before in brilliantly shaded classic lyricism, a technique of melting emotion.

The Prince, Vladimir Shklyarev, blond, handsome, blessed with a lithe body and prodigious technique, enjoyed a role with growth from a “look at me attitude,” wonderfully underlined by brushing gestures on his left shoulder while regarding the audience head on, then intrigued, enraptured, then a discouraged seeker for his beloved, all handled with charm and conviction.

Fellow colleagues have commented on the flaws of the production while praising the calibre of the dancing. Zellerbach may be the end of the foreign presentations of Ratmansky’s conception; still, it is gloriously realized in the smartness of the corps’ ballroom gowns, solid colors ranging from marigold through russet reds and a maroon or two, the design with adroit slits on one side to near the hip, accenting urban mendacity. The colors also hint at the autumn of fair tales themselves.

Ratmansky provided cheeky comment with the ensemble of women and men he ventured into in his search with the slipper. Nothing but charm ensued when Cinderella dropped the other slipper from the stairs above the Prince, sitting disconsolately on the lower landing. His climbing and her retreating in the double staircase made for visual satisfaction, prelude to a soaring pas de deux. Colleagues aside, and agreeing with some slow spots, I would enjoy seeing Ratmansky’s early essay on this quite Russian Cinderella again, supported by the Maryinsky Ballet Orchestra conducted by Gavriel Heine.

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