Dance: Cinderella on Ice

24 Aug 08 - City News, Australia - Sunday Francisreiss

Although the classic tale gets modernised and is performed by a troupe of former athletes, not a drop of Cinderella’s magic has been lost in this enchanting spectacle.

The familiar storyline has been updated slightly, and this Cinderella is training to be a ballerina.

In practical terms this allows for a performance within the performance, as she dances a stunning Swan Lake. In narrative terms it is a reasonable alteration, as it means her “prince” (changed for these postimperialist times to the Lord Mayor’s son) can fall in love with Cinderella not just for being beautiful and having dainty feet, as the original yarn told, but for her talented and emotive performing as well.

A side-plot of a nonchalantly performed romantic connection between two male characters makes a refreshing break from the hetero-normative traditions of children’s entertainment. A Gypsy Fortune Teller replaces the Fairy Godmother, and a new character, the Watchmaker, appears.

The theme of time is given prominence and is visually explored, involving one particularly magical scene where skaters representing the arms of a clock dance in a circular configuration with long stretches of silk.

The show is performed by the Imperial Ice Stars, a company of professional Russian skaters, many of whom are previous world or Olympic champions. As might be expected from former professional athletes, some of the performances are a little weak, and others overly dramatic. But children won’t care and the two leads, Olga Sharutenko as Cinderella and Andrei Penkine as the Lord Mayor’s son, dance beautifully together.

The skating itself is just about faultless, with spirals, triple axel jumps, and awe-inspiring lifts decorating each dynamic sequence. We are even treated to a five-minute encore, in which the skaters return out of character to cut loose on the icy stage. They thoroughly enjoy thrilling us with their funkiest skating tricks.

As fit for a fairytale, the entire show exudes an opulence due in no small part to the wondrous costumes of Albina Gabueva, head designer at Moscow’s famed Stanislavsky Theatre. The show is long – two and a half hours (including a twenty minute interval) – which might mean that younger audience members are asleep before the ten o’clock finish. But for the rest of us, the final scene is a magnificent duet in which Cinderella and her fella are surrounded by starlight, uplifted by the pure magic of love.

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