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Ballet Theatre of Ohio reprising story ballet ‘Cinderella’

4/25/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Roger Durbin

Ballet Theatre of Ohio will stage “Cinderella” May 4-5 at the Akron Civic Theatre.
Photo courtesy of Ballet Theatre of Ohio
DOWNTOWN AKRON — The last time Ballet Theatre of Ohio staged Artistic Director Christine Meneer’s story ballet “Cinderella,” she had several dancers who were suffering from injuries. This time, when the company performs May 4-5 at Akron Civic Theatre, things will be different, she said.

“Everyone is fine this time,” said Meneer. “We are right on schedule and everything’s coming together.”

“Cinderella” is a good story to set to dance, which explains why there have been many versions of it around the world. Meneer, however, does her special take on it. She focuses on the central issues of the story — the enduring love story of the young scullery maid finding her Prince and living happily ever after, and the angry world in which the young lovers must struggle to get together (through splintered family life and obligations).

So the central pas de deux (to be performed by Abigail Wilhite as the title character and veteran dancer Damien Highfield as her Prince) is a central emotional moment in the tale.

Balanced against that are the family squabbles with the stepsisters and stepmother (which Meneer plays for laughs and fun through dancers Kelly Meneer, Kim Sulek and Jennifer Black) and the elaborate ball scene that represents the glamorous world that just about anyone would want to be part of — deserving or not.

Other notable dance characters are the Dance Master (performed by Brian Murphy) and the four fairies that help Cinderella (Hannah Smolinski as the Spring Fairy, Ali LeBay as Summer Fairy, Amy Ott as Autumn Fairy and Kit Smart as Winter Fairy). Michael McGill will perform the role of The King.

As has often been the case, Meneer has a track record of being especially good with crowd scenes (as in her annual production of “Nutcracker”). She can get performances of great nuance from amateur and professional dancers alike that make the scene vibrant for the audience.

Meneer has something else up her sleeve that will make the magical world of “Cinderella” come to life, especially for young children and aspiring dancers. Thanks to OMNOVA Solutions Foundation, Meneer said Ballet Theatre will offer a children’s interactive element.

As each child enters the Civic Theatre, she or he will be given a dance card to fill out. As they wander through the theater, they will be able to visit various rooms that are sort of lifted out of the story.

In the upper salon, the Dance Master will be on hand to teach children how to waltz. Next to it, they can peek into Cinderella’s closet and see her clothing, from rags to ball gowns. They also can wander through the finery available for the stepsisters and their mother. The Fairy God Mother, in another area, will wave her magic wand to start the children on the road to the performance.

Children will be given a memento of their experience at each stop, including a small glass slipper.

Meneer reminded that doors open an hour before the performance, so there is plenty of time to make this journey if people arrive early enough. They can also zip through during intermission and directly after the performance, she said.

As is easily seen, this Cinderella is an event, one that is capstoned by a two-hour-long lush story ballet set to the music of Sergei Prokofiev.

Performances will take place May 4 at 2 and 7 p.m. and May 5 at 2 p.m. Ticket prices are $30, $22 and $15, with discounts available by visiting www.BalletTheatreOhio.org or calling 330-688-6065. Tickets also are available at the Akron Civic Theatre Box Office at 330-253-2488 or through TicketMaster at 800-745-3000.


Roger Durbin is professor emeritus of bibliography at The University of Akron and board director of the Dance Critics Association. To contact him, email r.durbin@sbcglobal.net.

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