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New Cinderella captivates Seattle audiences

“So,” said one member of the audience when leaving last Saturday, "is that how ballet traditionally does Cinderella story?”

“No,” replied her friend, “that was anything but traditional.”

For its first program of 2017, Pacific Northwest Ballet brought Jean-Christophe Maillot’s “Cendrillon” to the United States. From the same creators as the “Roméo et Juliette” previously imported from Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, this work by choreographer Maillot looks to be the same smash hit with older audiences. Like “Roméo et Juliette," the sets and costumes are more suggestive than traditional renditions and there's nothing to get in the way of the romance of the dance.

With a subplot that often becomes the main plot, much of the action revolves around Cinderella’s lost mother, who returns from the dead in the form of a fairy godmother to both help her daughter and haunt her husband. The final duets of the father and fairy godmother give the entire production more poignancy than might be expected in whirlwind romance between Cinderella and her royal fella with a slight fascination with her toes. Instead of glass slippers, this Cinderella dances in bare feet adorned with glitter and the Prince, in searching for his lost lass, does peer at a lot of feet.

Like Maillot’s “Roméo et Juliette,” the choreography contains moments of heartfelt tenderness and a sense of playfulness among the younger lovers. Elizabeth Murphy and Noelani Pantastico trade off the role of Cinderella in this run. In certain performances, Panstastico dances the Fairy Godmother, a role well-suited to her fine comedic timing.

Last Saturday afternoon, Murphy paired with Jerome Tisserand as the Prince gave an exceptional performance as did Seth Orza playing Father to Pantastico's Fairy/Mother.  Carrying off the more off-beat costumes, basically riffs on 18th and 19th century underwear, were Sarah Pasch as the Stepmother and the Leta Biasucci and Angelica Generosa as the step-sisters.

Maillot excels at giving male dancers plenty of athletic and mock-combative moments. His Montagues and Capulets made their battles monumental teases. In this tale, the men range from the smarmy "pleasure superintendents" to living mannequins to the Prince's gang of four. All these groups inspired chuckles from the audience.

Given the long lines at the box office to pick up tickets to “see it again,” it seems that this Cinderella fits PNB’s audience better than a glass slipper.

Cinderella (Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Noelani Pantastico) with her stepsisters (l-r soloist Sarah Ricard Orza and principal dancer Rachel Foster)