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Through a glass slipper darkly: San Francisco Ballet's new Cinderella

23 Apr 2013 4:10 PM
Through a glass slipper darkly: San Francisco Ballet's new Cinderella

Few stories have been told (and re-told) more often than Cinderella. The classic fairytale has been the subject of books, movies, musicals and more, but a recent ballet production has been earning acclaim as one of the most innovative retellings in recent years. The joint Dutch National Ballet-San Francisco Ballet production is coming to the Bay Area from May 3 to May 12, and ballet lovers here are already clamoring for the show.

The San Francisco performance will be the U.S. premiere of the acclaimed production, which is directed by Christopher Wheeldon. Following more closely in the footsteps of the original Brothers Grimm version than the famous Disney film, Wheeldon's show is dark and imbued with ominous undertones.

This unsettling atmosphere is partially conjured by the score, which was originally written by Sergei Prokofiev. However, the haunting music is only part of the equation - world-class dancing and a vivid set help transform this shopworn tale into an utterly new experience. 

In her review for The Holland Times, arts critic Erin Russell praised Wheeldon for his original approach and deft control over the show's pacing and structure.

"Wheeldon has used a light hand in rearranging the order of Profokiev's original score and worked well within the narrative dictates that the sometimes very short 'scenes' command," Russell wrote. "And he's drawn out those previously ignored darker strains in the original music—and that of the original tales themselves."

It's easy to think that every ounce of originality has been wrung from Cinderella, but Wheeldon's novel approach proves that this tale has a few surprises left in it.