A classic story comes to life in the Richmond Ballet's "Cinderella." 

Rags to Riches

Richmond Ballet celebrates the coming of spring with "Cinderella," the timeless tale of a young girl's transformation from neglected stepchild to royalty. With extravagant sets and costumes by Peter Farmer, and live music by the Richmond Symphony, conducted by Ron Matson, this three-act story ballet is an enchanting night of dance. Anastasia Babayeva and Denis Gronostayskiy return to Richmond to play the starry-eyed couple, with Katherine Gansman and Bryan Skates taking the roles for matinees.

Choreographer Malcolm Burn drew from the other thousand-some versions of the story, from such countries as China, Korea, Russia and Italy. He finally decided primarily on Charles Perrault's version with its glass slipper, pumpkin and fairy godmother. Moved by the poetic love story, Burn believes audiences can easily relate to its story of hope.

"Each moment should evoke an association, whether it be the joy of finding your true love, the sorrow that comes with losing a parent, the anguish that you feel when you are subjected to persecution, or the belief in a happily-ever-after," he says. "The challenge for me as a choreographer was in finding these moments and presenting them so that they speak to each person in the audience." One way is to ensure dancers know their characters intimately.

Since leaving Richmond, Babayeva has taught ballet at Philadelphia's Academy of International Ballet and Performing Arts with her husband. And she knows that playing the prince and princess is more than learning dance steps. Thrilled by the opportunity to return to the role, she says, "You already know the steps, and now you can pay more attention to how you act. … It's very important. Sometimes, like in 'Giselle,' you have to be very careful because young girls know the character so well."

But having performed Cinderella as recently as two years ago for Richmond Ballet, she has no worries. The ballet inspires her, Babayeva says. "It's like rereading your favorite book and always finding something new."

What contributes to the charm of a production like "Cinderella" is more than the story of the nasty stepmother and stepsisters, and the magic brewed by the four fairies. The ballet is a visual spectacle, enticing with elaborate sets, a dramatically lighted dark forest, chandeliers, a gazebo, and a ballroom with a grand staircase. Add to this Sergei Prokofiev's spirited score and the professional cast joined by 27 children from the School of Richmond Ballet, and the result is fantastical fairytale shimmering into life.

Richmond Ballet's "Cinderella" will run March 1-2 at 7:30 p.m. and March 2-3 at 2 p.m. at the Carpenter Center. Tickets cost $15-$50. Call 262-8100.


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