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Dance review: Magic abounds in DTT’s ‘Cinderella’

cindyThe job of a ballet’s artistic director is apparently never done. That’s certainly true for Christopher Mohnani, artistic director of Dance Theatre of Tennessee.

When the dancer scheduled to play the Stepmother in DTT’s current mounting of Cinderella was forced to bow out, Mohnani donned drag and went onstage himself. And during Saturday’s opening-night production at Father Ryan High School (the show repeats Sunday afternoon) Mohnani played the part with style and wicked humor.

DTT’s mission is to bring ballet to the people, so it comes as no surprise that the company’s Cinderella is presented as a fairly straightforward fairy tale. There are no Freudian subtexts or dark undercurrents in this production. Even the Stepsisters – featuring dancers Guadalupe Medina and Casey Myrick in outrageous getup – come across as more cheeky than wicked.

The main point of this production is to enchant and charm, and in that respect DTT’s Cinderella is a smashing success. The colorful sets and costumes have a storybook simplicity and appeal, and the acting and dancing is all decently done.

Obviously, any production of Cinderella will only be as good as its prima ballerina, and on Saturday night Jennifer Drake danced with grace and sensitivity. She was appropriately girlish in the opening act and was positively radiant at the ball. Her dance technique was flawless, and the long, tapering lines of her arabesques were unforgettable.

The handsome Brian Williamson was a convincing Prince who danced lyrically both as a soloist and a partner. Lena Parker played the role of the Fairy Godmother with patrician elegance. The delightfully garish Medina and Myrick served up a heaping helping of ham, and Dillon Davis, was both a funny and frenetic Jester.

Tom Pazik’s elegant choreography, which has been restaged by the Atlanta Ballet’s former principal dancer Kathy McBeth Hutcheson, produced most of the memorable moments on Saturday night.

The four Season fairies – Gabrielle Gambino (Spring), Amanda Whites (Summer), Heather Gorres (Autumn) and Marisa Montany (Winter) – were all classically refined and tasteful. Lisa Schmidt was a graceful Dragonfly Fairy, and Hilary Busick was an energetic Gypsy Dancer. The small children from DTT’s youth cast were unfailingly adorable.

Paula Drake’s colorful costumes and Randy Purcell, Ken Walls and Gregg Colson’s serviceable sets and scenery create a convincing fairy tale backdrop. Sergei Prokofiev’s score, with its mix of majesty and sarcasm, always establishes the proper mood.

Cinderella is DTT’s final production of the 2012-13 season. Anyone who wants to live happily ever after should catch this afternoon’s repeat performance.

IF YOU GO

Dance Theatre of Tennessee presents Cinderella. The Performance is 2 p.m. Sunday, May 5 at Father Ryan High School Auditorium, 700 Norwood Dr. Tickets are $22.50 (adults) and $17.50 (children) in advance and $25 and $20 at the door. Call 391-5500 or go to www.dancetheatretn.org.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), ArtNowNashville.com and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.