Although one may be lead to believe that someone who has spent their whole life living within the Wigan Borough would be extremely cultured & completely aware of what makes a good Ballet, unfortunately, I do not fit into this category.
I’ve always had a keen interest in performing arts but sadly, I really wasn’t given the gift of dance, so my interests always lacked. As far as my knowledge of Ballet goes, I’ve never seen it live & the only full ballet performance I’ve ever watched was The Ugly Duckling when CBeebies aired it over Christmas or Easter a few years ago.
The Lowry invited us to a soap-star-studded opening night, as the Birmingham Royal Ballet lifted the curtain for the first time on their Cinderella performance in Salford.
As someone who finds it near impossible to keep my mouth shut, I wasn’t sure I could enjoy a non-dialogue performance.
I was surprised to find that the performance was not only captivating but actually rather funny too. The ‘ugly step sisters’ held quite a large value of comic relief throughout the performance, alongside the frog, lizards & other parts of the ensemble.
I do think it helped that this is a storyline that everyone already knows and loves, which made it far easier to follow. Because of this, the performance was actually much more child-friendly than I anticipated.
I felt like I had done my little sister a miss justice in not bringing her along really, because for many of the little girls in the audience last night, these many beautiful dancers, in glittering gowns held some Disney Land level of magic.
The set was absolutely stunning also and had a huge impact on exaggerating what was happening in each part of the story line. The kitchen set was hugely oversized & used purely unpleasant, faded colours. This helped you to feel the way Cinderella must be feeling – small, empty & far from anything special.
Every piece of the set was completely thought out to the smallest details. A huge mirror which is used when the Fairy Godmother is transforming Cinderella was such a simple use of set that had such a massive impact; which is something I haven’t seen before in the many versions of this Fairy Tale I’ve watched in the past.
In all honesty, I’ve always looked at ballet and thought it appeared to be painfully boring, completely against all of my tastes. I like BIG musicals, like Wicked, where there’s a lot going on. Birmingham Royal Ballet took one of the most well-known storylines in the world and made it not only completely stunning & magical but also completely unique to any version of this story that I have seen before.
I would also like to make the point that Jenna Roberts, who played the role of Cinderella, stayed on point for a time that seemed to last at least around 90 seconds, if not more.
I’ve never tried to do this myself (the closest I’ve ever come to being on point is successful winged eyeliner). I am, however, very aware of how intense and actually painful this is. So wow, is all I have to say. This may not impress avid Ballet watchers as much as it does me, but my mind was blown.
Something I am a complete sucker for is a live Orchestra, I couldn’t see them from where I was sitting but it just makes such a dramatic difference to a room when the music is live. A massive group of people worked together through to 105 minutes that the piece ran for. I’m not sure if you’re aware how much practice & skill it takes for everyone to keep in time in a group of that scale, but my guess is a LOT.
All in all, I have come to a point where I feel Ballet is totally under-rated. This is definitely something I would be willing to try again. Thank you, Birmingham Royal Ballet for making me laugh, cry and curl my toes at the thought of the agony you all put into making last night so very spectacular.
Photo Credit: The Lowry