Set-upon heroine? Check. Wicked stepmother? Check. Frightful stepsisters? Check. Prince, palace, royal ball? Check, check and check.Anyone familiar with Cinderella, brought to mass audiences by the Disney film, will know exactly what’s what in Ballet Jörgen’s take on the age-old story.
“Cinderella is a fairytale that’s been around for well over 3,000 years,” notes Bengt Jörgen, who choreographed the production that will play at Drayton Entertainment’s Cambridge theatre later this month.
Similar stories traced back to ancient Egypt and China, he says. The European version of the tale, the one that Disney drew on, makes an appearance in the 17th century.
“Its staying power is quite incredible as a fairytale,” said Jörgen of Cinderella’s enduring appeal, including his own desire to interpret the myth. “I wanted to explore the story and the power of the fairytale.”
He saw Cinderella as ideal for ballet.
“It’s a perfect fit” … just like the left-behind-shoe, another common thread in the story across the many years and cultures, he notes.
His adaptation of the tale will be familiar to viewers of the Disney classic, but is more rooted in the European folktales – “a bit more grounded.”
When Cinderella encounters an old lady, a mysterious seed and a flock of enchanting fairies, she begins an adventure that will change her life – and upset her snooty stepsisters. Jörgen’s choreography balances fairytale with contemporary family relationships.
“There’s a little bit of Cinderella and a little bit of the stepsisters in all of us,” he said, noting the dynamics at play in the story aren’t just black and white.
The ballet opens on Cinderella’s older stepsister reading an invitation to the Great Ball, hosted by Prince Charming. Cinderella watches as the smaller sister fights to read the invitation. By chance, Cinderella gets the invitation from them, only to be ganged up on by her stepsisters. From there, the story as we know it unfolds.
Of course, it is a love story, complete with all the familiar trappings including Prince Charming. One thing you won’t see, however, is a pumpkin – no Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo. Instead, the ballet draws on the ancient magic from the seed of a tree – a symbol of nature, the forest being both mystical and the natural home of fairies.
“It’s not a cartoon. It’s a very real story. It’s a great story to watch.”
That’s not to say there aren’t a few laughs in the mix.
“Humour is a big part of how we like to communicate,” said Jörgen.
Ballet Jörgen’s production of Cinderella takes to the stage at the Dunfield Theatre Cambridge for two shows on September 27 (2:00 and 7:30 p.m.) and a recently added performance on September 28 (2 p.m.). Tickets are $35 ($25 for those under 20 years of age), available online at www.dunfieldtheatrecambridge.com, in person at the Dunfield Theatre Cambridge box office, or by calling (519) 621-8000 or toll free 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866).
As well, Drayton Entertainment and the ballet company will host a special Cinderella showcase free of charge. Registration is required and may be booked online by visiting www.draytonentertainment.com. Beginning at 11:30 a.m. audiences will watch Ballet Jörgen dancers as they prepare for the afternoon’s performance in their daily class. The event will be followed up by a brief Q & A session with a company representative from Ballet Jörgen.