This past weekend, I attended the Ballet Fantastique original production of Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet set in 1964. This was the last performance I will see as an intern with Ballet Fantastique, and I could not be more sad. This show’s creativity and entertainment, though, has solidified my lifelong love of Ballet Fantastique.
In a word, Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet was amazing—I loved watching this traditional fairytale with its little (or big!) Bontrager twist. Mother-daughter team Hannah and Donna Bontrager chose the story of Cinderella to preform for their final show of the season but changed things up by setting the story in 1964. They selected a variety of 1960’s hits to be played live during the performances by the local group Shelley and Cal James and their band (created especially for Cinderella), Agents of Unity. The inclusion of live music is a signature of Ballet Fantastique, and for Cinderella, it helped to create a high level of energy that captivated me through out the show. My favorite song was their rendition of “Wild Thing,” to which Shelley added her own new melody. By Donna and Hannah’s request, the song’s original length was stretched from 2.5 minutes to almost five, including dueling guitar solos played by band members Cal James (see photo) and Joe Weber.
The two lead dancers in the performance were incredible. Ballet Fantastique company dancer Alanna Fisher played the role of Cinderella, and Fredrick Davis (from Dance Theater of Harlem) was cast as Prince Charming. Alanna and Fredrick had great chemistry as a duet and both possessed a special presence that entranced the crowd. Fredrick was in Eugene for only two weeks learning Donna and Hannah’s choreography, and appeared in nine out of the show’s fourteen pieces. But this limited preparation time (dancers usually have between 4–6 weeks to learn and rehearse original choreography before a performance) was not evident in his performance. He danced beautifully across the stage and captivated audiences with his artistry and presence.
I spoke with Hannah about her experiences of working with Fredrick for this past show. “It was such an honor to work with a dancer of Fred’s caliber,” said Hannah. “He dove right into our original choreography and made it his own! What an exciting first for us to bring to Eugene audiences.”
I could not help but noticing the effect this show had on the rest of the audience. During intermission, fellow intern Ursi Wagner and I commented on how audience members young and old were singing songs and raving about the performance of the cast. The energy the dancers exuded was contagious.
“I’ve never seen a ballet that had audiences out of their seats with excitement like Ballet Fantastique’s Cinderella,” said Ursi. “The live music and 60s inspired dancing was an electrifying way to end their daring season.”
While I have loved all of the shows that Ballet Fantastique has put on this season, Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet was definitely my favorite. It defied any pre-conceptions I had about ballet being a stringent form of dance. I liked how the show was able to use traditional ballet choreography with modern music and a big twist. After this show, I am even more intrigued to see what the Bontragers will craft up in the 2012-2013 VENTURE season. Guess I will have to wait and see what the talented Ballet Fantastique team will conjure up next year!
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