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Cinderella (Ballet Nacional de Cuba)

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Through pure serendipity, we caught the Ballet Nacional de Cuba's performance of"Cinderella" in Madrid last Sunday night. It was a pretty cool way to close out our vacation.

Much of what has already been written on this board about this company held true here. The production values were pretty awful. Between the scratchy soundtrack and the painted backdrops, it felt rather like a school recital. And I really didn't like the costumes! They were a very strange mish-mash of styles. The women at the prince's ball wore hideous dark green flapper-style dresses with gold sashes -- very ungraceful. Cinderella changed from a longish French maid's dress to a white flapper-style dress for the ball. It just didn't look like a ball! In contrast, the stepsisters and prince were in appropriately fairy-tale-like garb.

Laura Hormigón was wonderful in the title role. Tall and willowy, her dancing stood out even beyond the deliberate choreographic contrasts with the stepsisters (played here by women -- only the stepmother was played by a male). She really was different from everyone else on stage. She used amazing turnout and danced with a fluidity that was different from the more angular movements of the other dancers. I really enjoyed watching her.

Oscar Torrado made a very manly prince. I awaited eagerly his solo. Alas, it was disappointing. He had trouble finding his center and repeatedly fell out of his pirouettes.

I suspect that the stage was just too small. In general, the dancers looked cramped and constrained, as though they just didn't trust themselves to really jump or extend. This was especially true of the men. I'm sure their balance was thrown off.

Applause was lukewarm from the audience in the first act, more enthusiastic in the second. We got a kick out of watching Alicia Alonso out of the corner of our eyes -- she was seated just behind us as the curtain rose. Alas, we could not interpret her impressions. I will say that the price of the ticket -- $23 for orchestra seats -- was an unexpected pleasure!

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Well, technically they were 23 euro. But the euro is trading just about evenly against the dollar. Yes, it would be easy to feed one's habit there!

The choreographer was Pedro Consuegra, "inspirado en el cuento homónimo de Charles Perrault," according to the program notes. Roughly translated, I think that means "inspired by the story of the same name by Charles Perrault", but I bet one of our Spanish speakers can give a more fluid interpretation. The notes also say that Consuegra, a Cuban, presented his first version of this ballet in 1988, and that he revised it substantially for the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, enriching the technical and dramatic aspects. This version premiered in Havana in March 1996.

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