Louisville Ballet II

By Margaret Brower

The Louisville Ballet closed out its 1992-93 season with two very different performances. On February 25-27, the company offered three choreographers' works accompanied by the Louisville Orchestra. On March 25-27, the ballet mounted a full-scale production of "Cinderella," set to Sergei Prokofiev's score.

If the Louisville Ballet has something for everyone, the last two performances of the season were good examples of what it offers. While the February performance was a good night for the more serious ballet-omane, March's "Cinderella" was fare for the whole family. And, with a few minor exceptions, the company is sure to have satisfied its audiences well.

The 1993-94 season promises to be another strong year for the Louisville Ballet with a company premiere of the classic "Don Quixote" and a brand new production of "Dances from West Side Story." The Louisville Ballet has some excellent dancers and it will be interesting to see them use their talent in new ways.

March madness

No, it wasn't basketball, but "Cinderella" did have its high points. The story was the same: a poor, bereft young woman is mistreated by her ugly step-sisters. Then her fairy godmother steps in, gives her a new outfit and suddenly she's the belle of the ball. This production was enhanced by a particularly raucous pair of step-sisters and a bevy of forest fairies. The Louisville Ballet's dancers delivered fine performances, but the ballet was a bit longer than most ten-year-olds would patiently endure.

Sergei Prokofiev's music presented choreographer, artistic director and Ugly Step-Sister Alun Jones with a significant creative challenge. But Jones and Helen Starr, who worked with him on the ballet, drew much from the music. Their choreography took note of every shift and created individual moves to match the mood of every phrase. This was particularly evident in the variations danced by the Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter Fairies at the close of Act I.

Cinderella, danced by Elizabeth Hartwell, required mastery of the simplest classical steps and technically demanding, almost athletic sequences. She deftly partnered a broom as the lonely girl without an invitation to the ball, then later that night, dazzled the Prince and his guests by encircling the room with turns and leaps.

The Ugly Step-Sisters, played by Jones and ballet master Vincent Falardo, stole the show. The two not only danced, they acted. It would have been very easy to trivialize the roles, but Jones and Falardo managed to play bigger-than-life parts without becoming caricatures.

The opening scene of the ballet found Ugly Step-Sisters 1 and 2 meticulously stitching two ends of a scarf. Each sister intended to wear the scarf to the ball and soon dreams of the impending festivities gave way to an all-out brawl. Their choreography was a combination of mime, influenced by Sir Frederic Ashton's 1947 version of the ballet, and classical steps performed accurately, if not delicately, by the "ladies."

The least inspired section of the ballet was the Prince's dance. There were some thrilling moments as the courtiers engulfed the stage in a whirl of skirts and capes, but they were far too rare. And, though the scene was backed by a majestic set, the ensemble dances eventually lost their appeal.

To turn a three-minute fairy tale into a two-and-a-half-hour ballet is ambitious. Prokofiev did it with music, and many choreographers have brought the score to life. Alun Jones and Helen Starr created a work of musical sensibility, humor and unique choreography. Their company, in turn, carried out their vision with support of extras from the Louisville community.