A quick spin up the motorway in the driving rain found Trog in Stoke-on-Trent to see the Moscow City Ballet at the Regent Theatre. The Regent is one of the better provincial theatres; it has a old world elegance, which is missing from many of the newer theatres.
Moscow City Ballet are currently touring Nutcrackers and Cinderellas untilApril, with a couple of Swan Lakes thrown in. The idea of The Nutcracker appearing in April means they are either trying to extend last years Christmas spirit for as long as possible, or make damn sure they first cab off the rank for this year.
Most of these smaller ballet companies have a one good male dancer, while the rest of the chaps do little more than hold the ladies hands. The MCB features a full complement of male dancers, at least 12 by my counting. While one of the chaps is definitely a much better dancer than the rest, the others do a reasonable job. I especially liked the role of the ballet master, one of the King's advisers. The Prince is quite a strong dancer, showing good elevation. Sadly there were no cast sheets on offer, so I can't put names to the faces.
This particular Cinderella is presented in two acts with eight scenes. Choreography is Victor Smirnov-Golovanov, the AD of the company. The costumes are gorgeous, very brightly coloured, mostly in shades of purple. This just happens to be Trogs favourite colour, so no complaints by me in the design department. The set is a nice simple painted affair, consisting of a central archway, with a large clock face above. For the scenes in Cinderella's cottage, a fireplace appears stage right and a dressing table stage left.
The ugly sisters are far too pretty; Trog would have been happy to have taken them home. Actually Trog would like to take all of the dancers home, but that is another story. The only other production of Cinderella I have seen had the ugly sisters danced by two men. This reminded me too much of pantomime dames, so perhaps the good looking ugly sister is a better idea. The step-mother does a good job of being the maitre de; acting very formidably. She looked to me as though she relished this role and was giving it a good go. Cinder's dad is suitably down trodden. I can' say I remember him appearing in the story my Dad read to me as I was tucked up in bed.
The company use a live orchestra, which is a very nice touch, especially as most smaller companies uses CD's. Touring with a full orchestra and a full ballet company is a logistic nightmare. Very well done I say. This is a Prokofiev score that you don't hear every day of the week (unlike R&J) so it made a very nice change. In fact I had forgotten what a lovely score it is.
The grand pdd danced by the Prince and Cinderella at the ball is very nice; in addition to the usual penchees and pirouettes, there are some very pretty low lifts. We usually only see high lifts in a pdd, on account of them being more spectacular. The low lift is so under-utilised. This is one of the nicest pdd's I have seen in a long time. Very romantic and almost tender in places.
The clock is represented by dancers in gold tights and boots, and tunics with Roman numerals on them. They circle, holding hands, with every alternative dancer (the girls), holding their leg over their arms. It is quite a surreal scene, especially the final pose. I though it worked well in representing a clock. There was the works (the dancers circling with interlocked hands), the dial (their costumes) and the chiming of midnight (the final big lift).
After Cinders dashes out and looses her slipper, the Prince and the King go on a world tour to find the foot that fits the shoe. This scene is quite silly, with them ensconced in a carriage at the back of the stage, the four advisers dancing centre stage and some chaps doing repeated plies in second down the wings as horses. I was immediately reminded of Monty Python's Holy Grail (lots of silly knees-bent running about), and I don't think I was alone.
The first destination is the Island of The Corsairs, which consists of some chaps with boleros and short scimitars, and one lady in a Spanish-style skirt and hairdo, and a bare midriff. While this was a nice scene, it did nothing for the story. The Prince rushing out of the coach, waving the shoe at the lady dancer and rushing off again. A similar scene was repeated with the Middle East featuring a harem girl.
The final pdd was really an ensemble, with the fairies, the ugly sisters, the step-mother and, of course, Cinderella and the Prince all taking a turn. A tableau to end a nice ballet.
While not up to the technical standard of the other touring companies (BRB, ENB and NBT), the MCB presented a nice evening of ballet. If they are in your area, they are worth a look.