This week, I got a special chance to see the spectacle that is the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of Cinderella. My flatmate Amy knew someone dancing in the show and managed to get herself, my other flatmate Elin and I a discounted ticket each for the Birmingham Hippodrome, from £46 (painful…) to £15 (definitely agreeable). It was safe to say we were all buzzing.
If you can afford to go to see a ballet, please do! I know most students probably can’t, but generous relatives – or just an irresponsible splurge of your student loan – can make it happen. If you don’t see them regularly, and I know most people my age don’t just by thinking back to the amount of elderly couples I saw in the audience, it’s a unique experience. It’s different from the cinema and even a normal play. You’re meant to focus solely on the movements of the dancers, graceful and hypnotizing, carried along by the live orchestra below the stage. The lack of speech, like a silent film, somehow makes it even more captivating.
© Birmingham Royal Ballet
The production is more or less faithful to the original fairytale, splitting it into three acts. I won’t try to remember the whole thing in detail, because now it’s mostly a blur of sparkles, colour, music and twirling skirts (and it may spoil it for the more interested) but I’ll talk about my highlights of the show.
I don’t know any ballet jargon, so I apologise for my amateur language describing the performance, and I also don’t mean to treat this as a professional review! I’d like to talk about my personal experience of the show. But please, do go and see this production or anything else in future by the Birmingham Royal Ballet if you can, because I can tell they’re one of the best.
© BBC/Bill Cooper
I mentioned at the start that me and my friends laughed quite a bit during this show. This wasn’t because it was bad, and I think I’ve made that quite obvious already. But the main comical element of the production was Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters and evil stepmother. It had to be, didn’t it? Aside from the fact that the two dancers who played the stepsisters aren’t ugly at all, their dancing is comically exaggerated to look poor and used in the show to impress the male characters, primarily Prince Charming. It was done in a way that made the audience laugh, but was still skilful, showing their immense talent as dancers.
What I really laughed at, though, was the animals that come on after the Fairy Godmother tells Cinderella that she will go to the ball. Their dancing was also obviously comical but very cleverly done, and the cutest thing was the little mice that were played by children from the ballet school!
© Dance Europe
© Dance Europe
A general highlight, but definitely one to mention, were the costumes. Oh my lord, the costumes. I wanted to try on every single one. My favourites were the Fairy Godmother’s large ensemble of silver fairies, the four fairies that represented the seasons (blue, yellow, red and white costumes of which gave me very strong La La Land withdrawals), and the evil stepmother’s amazing black dress with a turned up collar and train. I’m pretty sure every single costume had sparkle somewhere, which on one hand was my expectation, but on the other they definitely exceeded it.
You can tell when two performers don’t have a lot of chemistry. But, luckily, the dancers playing Cinderella and the Prince had a lot to show in this department. Our quiet but uncontrolled gasps whenever he entered the stage, or began dancing with his leading lady, said a lot in themselves. If that wasn’t enough, the man playing the Prince that night actually looked like the late singer and icon, Prince! This was amusing and undoubtedly awesome. As the leading dancers change every night, I can’t find his name or a picture of him, but only time will tell…
© Dance Europe
One of the most memorable moments, and, in the build up, one I had hoped for, happened during Cinderella and the Prince’s first dance at the ball. They executed the most incredible lift – I remember one of her legs was stretched out behind her so that both legs were positioned in a right angle, and the one outstretched was at almost twice the height of him. The lift was held for around three to five seconds – I remember silently admiring the strength that must be demanded of these dancers to achieve such a thing. This was one of the few occasions where the audience breaks into applause while the dancing and music is still going: where that one particular move stuns them all into the breaking of etiquette. I think this move showed the importance of the meeting between Cinderella and the Prince, because it contrasts so much with the half-hearted steps (of the character – the dancer himself was definitely never half-hearted!) the Prince took when steered around by the ugly stepsisters. It was a moment of thrilling emotion, and that’s why it’s one of the moments I remember the most.
Finally, for the ending – as cringey as all this sounds, this was definitely the point where our hands, at least twice, flew to our hearts in amazement. I’m unsure whether this was because it was bolstered by the previous wonders in the show, or it was simply the beauty it had in its own right. It is just adorable – instead of continuing what comes before when any dance had ended in the show, Cinderella and Prince Charming close the show on a blissful note. They simply walk away with their arms around each other, albeit still with a point in their step, into the magical mood lighting and mist of the stage. The slow descending of the (beautifully decorated) stage partition follows. We were surprised, but in the best way possible.
Afterwards, perhaps in our elated happiness, we stopped at McDonald’s for a good old burger and fries. From class to brass. (Saver menu is the way forward if you’re a student btw. 99p cheeseburger? Yes please.)
Watch the trailer for Cinderella here: