Cinderella’s slippers are a perfect fit for Dance Theatre of Tennessee

cindy3.jphCinderella is the quintessential populist heroine. She’s the ultimate every-girl, the young woman who dreams large and makes it in the big time. Is it any wonder Prince Charming falls for her?

cindy1This weekend, Dance Theatre of Tennessee will present the full-length storybook ballet Cinderella at Father Ryan High School Auditorium in Nashville. The story of Cinderella seems like a perfect fit for DTT.  The mission of this company, after all, is to bring ballet to the people.

“I can’t think of a better ballet than Cinderella to introduce people to classical dance,” says Christopher Mohnani, DTT’s artistic director. “The story is familiar and is fun to watch, especially since there is so much humor in this piece.”

Cinderella has been a mainstay of the international ballet repertoire since the mid-1940s, when Prokofiev completed the ballet’s grand and majestic score. He modeled his music after the famous ballets of Tchaikovsky. Naturally, he dedicated his score to his great predecessor.

This weekend’s performance will feature the choreography of Tom Pazik, and it is being staged by former Atlanta Ballet principal ballerina and ballet mistress Kathryn McBeth Hutcheson.

“What I like about Pazik’s choreography is that it is very clear and straightforward, which is important when you are staging a storybook ballet,” says Mohnani. “His choreography is dramatic and goes well with Prokofiev’s music.”

DTT has staged this version of Cinderella once before, during its inaugural 2010-11 season. Mohnani decided to stage it one more time because it is such a great work for his dancers.

“The piece is of course very demanding for the dancers on a technical level,” says Mohnani, who should know since he’s danced the work himself twice. “This ballet also requires them to develop their acting skills.”

Jennifer Drake, who will dance the title role, will certainly get to show off her acting chops. She must capture both the melancholy and vitality of this character.

Cinderella will definitely keep Guadalupe Medina and Casey Myrick on their toes. It’s a longstanding tradition to have the roles of the stepsisters danced by men. As the stepsisters, Medina and Myrick will have to be masters of slapstick, and they will also have to navigate the stage en pointe.

“Dancers who play the stepsisters always complain about the difficulty of dancing en pointe,” says Mohnani. “And of course they never get any sympathy from the ballerinas, who have to be on their toes eight hours a day.”

IF YOU GO

Dance Theatre of Tennessee presents Cinderella. Performances are 7 p.m. Saturday, May 4 and 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.