Wednesday, December 12, 2012


By Nancy Condit

Last Saturday evening the University of Oklahoma's Festival Ballet presented Balanchine's lovely Valse Fantasie, staged by Leslie Peck for the Balancine Trust, and a holiday favorite fairy tale Cinderella, co-choreographed by school of dance director Mary Margaret Holt and faculty member Steve Brule at the Reynolds Performing Arts Center in Norman. This was a beautiful evening of ballet, something that OU does well as it prepares students for professional work.

This version of Valse Fantasie, the first, and choreographed by Balanchine in 1953, was light, airy, frothy, and emphasized the four women reaching up as they leapt, assisted by the single male dancer, all dressed in filmy white costumes by Mike Buchwald after Barbara Karinska. Towards the end of the nine minute piece, the women and man circled their heads and each other, leaving the waltz one of circles on the ground, in the air and around each other. The music was by Mikhail Glinka.

Cinderella, Sergei Prokifiev's music, followed the familiar fairy tale, and included a beautiful celebration of nature as the Fairy Godmother led Cinderella and her prince to the Glade with the fairies of the four seasons. It was shortened from three to two acts "to make a more personal story," co-choreographer Mary Margaret Holt wrote in the press release.

Cinderella combined classic miming and ballet steps with contemporary work. The ballet made the most of miming throughout the dance, starting with Cinderella's grief when she was struck by her stepmother, and her joy at hearing her pet bird as her hands fluttered around the cage caring for them and imitating them. The crone who knocked at the door and who Cinderella showed to the fire was incredibly bent and clothed in a wonderful piece of costuming that wrapped around her figure in black and grey. She was so bent that when she finally became the Fairy Godmother, her transformation seemed almost impossible.

The hysterical Ugly Stepsisters were danced and played by senior faculty members Steve Brule, co-choreographer, and Donn Edwards. They made the most of what appear to be comfortable faces, judging from their faculty photos, and a lot of make-up. These ladies also had the unusual nervous tic of raising their skirts to their hips, allowing their pantalettes to show -- even at the ball.

The duet, chaperoned by the Fairy Godmother, danced by Cinderella and the Prince, after they met, she had run away at midnight, and he found her, was choreographed and performed very well. The piece combined classical and contemporary ballet, especially in the Prince's lifts of Cinderella. The Prince, unidentifiable at the time of this posting, was particularly good and stable in his lifts. The Jester, in duocolor motley, ushered in guests and entertained, returning to a stable one-leg-crossed-
over-the-other standing position.


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