At the BFan studio the countdown to the upcoming performances of Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet have begun in earnest and everyone, dancers and staff, are working hard to ensure that this production of Cinderella is the best one yet! When putting together an all-original and elaborate ballet performance, such as Cinderella, it truly involves the efforts of every member of the BFan team. From behind the scenes administrative work and the perfecting of costumes to the tireless rehearsing by our amazing dancers – it’s clear that when it comes to ballet it truly takes a village!
What better way to get a peek into the preparations for Cinderella than catching up with BFan’s dynamic mother and daughter duo Hannah and Donna Bontrager. These talented women are the masterminds behind Cinderella’s innovative and exciting choreography as well as being the ballet’s producers. We obviously are not the only ones who think that they make quite the pair because they both recently sat down Eugene Weekly’s Rachel Carnes for an interview.
Take a moment to read up on the work these two are doing and their thoughts on this season’s Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet performance and why they think YOU should show up at the Hult Center May 8th, 9th or 10th for the most rockin’ evening you’ve experienced in a long time!
Check out the exclusive interview below… And for more information/tickets click here!
Mother-daughter duo Hannah and Donna Bontrager
What’s so timeless about the Cinderella story?
HANNAH: “There’s something that just feels right about this story–a person who has a gut feeling, against all odds, that she is meant for something greater. There’s a reason why we call professional athletes who come from nothing ‘a Cinderella story.’ Everyone can relate to that.”
Why set it in the 1960s?
DONNA: “I went to prom in the 1960’s. This is my music. The more we started exploring the concept (which began as just an offhand comment in the car while we were on tour down to Ashland years ago, and took off from there), the more we fell in love with it, both for the thematic and musical possibilities, and for the historical suggestions. I knew it was the perfect time period and music for a Ballet Fantastique Cinderella.”
HANNAH: “Coming from my generation’s perspective–and being privileged to work alongside my mom, and the added layer that the performance is Mother’s Day weekend–there’s something so fascinating about knowing more about the time period our mothers grew up in. Most of my friends are obsessed with Mad Men, and part of the draw is about realizing the extent to which the period was a “man’s world,” and how strong these women, our mothers, are…how far they have come so that we can have more opportunity to realize our dreams and our potential. To me, Cinderella is a story about a woman breaking free of her confines, leaving the house work at home, and realizing that she could find an identity for herself outside of the kitchen. Our Cinderella is not the only woman who did that in the 60s. So, while our Cinderella emphasizes the love story–and it’s playful and fun, not meant to be a social commentary, per se–we love the underlying suggestion of this time period. The original Cinderella essentially burns her tattered cinder clothes. Thinking about it, if she had done that 100 years later, it would have been her bra.”
Has the movement vernacular and music influenced your choreography?
DONNA: “Growing up, we really did the Twist and the Mashed Potato. I knew I wanted them to inform the choreography. I also drew from Broadway-type movement and even the classical Kirov and Bolshoi Cinderellas. We truly created a hybrid, very theatrically-driven movement style.”
HANNAH: “As a dancer myself, I can say that Ballet Fantastique dancers know that we ask them to integrate diverse movemental influences into each new ballet. In ZORRO, we actually learned traditional Native American dance steps; in our Roaring 20’s Pride & Prejudice, we did the Charleston and the Black Bottom on pointe. Cinderella is a blast to dance because it brings all of these diverse styles together.”
What can audiences look forward to?
HANNAH: “When we first premiered this original ballet in 2012, our concept was met with a lot of wide eyes and raised eyebrows. Even Shelley and Cal weren’t sure if we could pull it off at first! But people tell us that it just works. Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet has actually become a seminal work in BFan’s original repertoire, helping to define and establish our unique brand of new dance theater–classic stories told through new choreography and unexpected music with an often playful twist. Now, in celebration of five seasons of premiering 100% original new contemporary ballets at the Hult, this was the first production we wanted to bring back–it’s kind of ‘iconic BFan.'”
DONNA: “In the past three years, we’ve actually seen more dance companies across the country telling new stories and even branding their work a ‘rock opera ballet’–we don’t think they’re copying us, but it is pretty exhilarating to have been ahead of this trend. This is my opinion, but I believe that the idea of doing a ‘rock opera ballet’ is catching on because it’s fun, accessible, fresh, funny. Audiences who come to a BFan show–and especially Cinderella–will be hard pressed not to be laughing out loud and totally caught up in the fun. Though I think it will hold special humor for my generation who grew up and fell in love to this music, BFan’s Cinderella is utterly timeless. This is a great date night or a great Mother’s Day family experience for kids.”
Does the piece have a narrator? Why?
DONNA: “Our Cinderella starts in silence for the moments before stepsister Drizz turns on the radio. Then, we’re all drawn into the action–essentially, we’re all hearing the live radio broadcast together. You know that feeling you have when you listen to the radio and the song just perfectly sums up what’s going on in your life? Our concept plays with that feeling–which of course also echoes the feeling we often have that a fairytale can happen to anyone, even a girl who feels her life is hopeless and she’s been totally forgotten.”
HANNAH: “And if the whole show is a live radio broadcast, it actually would have felt wrong not to have a DJ, right? This is BFan’s brand of cross-disciplinary collaboration and dance theater at its best. We knew that there was no one better to play our retro radio DJ than Fred Crafts. The narration we’ve written for Fred is short and sweet–the audience doesn’t need much to know what’s going on–but it’s pretty cheeky. It adds a little context and a lot of humor as each scene unfolds.”
Hannah Bontrager as Cinderella