As far as fairy tales go, almost everyone knows the story of Cinderella with its evil stepmother, wicked stepsisters, chores, fairy godmother and — finally — its glass slippers, pumpkin carriage and handsome prince happy ending. Originally an oral folktale, there are hundreds of versions of the Cinderella story, from the Brothers Grimm to writer Charles Perrault, and almost every culture in the world possesses a version that has been passed down through the ages.
This month, the Delta International Series presents the renowned State Ballet Theatre of Russia, which will interpret the timeless tale on the stage, set to music by Prokofiev and choreographed by former Bolshoi Ballet star Vladimir Vasiliev. The history and theatricality of Russian ballet tradition melds well with the dramatic storytelling and fertile imagination that defines fairy tales.
The State Ballet Theatre of Russia is the touring name of The Voronezh State Theatre of Opera and Ballet, established in 1961. (Voronezh is a large Russian city located halfway between Moscow and the Black Sea.) The company has traveled the globe performing a repertoire of modern as well as Russian classics such as Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, The Nutcracker, and many others. There are over 50 dancers in the company, most of them distinguished Russian artists who have won international competitions for their mastery of ballet and the classical Russian repertoire.
Although there are many versions of the Cinderella story, most follow the storyline familiar to American fans. We witness the transformation of Cinderella from a neglected and taunted step-daughter/step-sister to the belle of the ball and, ultimately, a happily-ever-after princess. This version is based on Frenchman Charles Perrault’s version of the story, “Cendrillon,” which he published in 1697. Perrault recorded the folktale he heard, but added some of the theatrical touches most closely identified with the story, such as the fairy godmother, the pumpkin carriage, the animal servants and the glass slippers. He also sanitized some of the more violent aspects of the fairy tale. For instance, in Perrault’s version Cinderella’s stepsisters find husbands, in other versions they are left poor, blind, maimed or even dead. In the Brothers Grimm version, Cinderella does not have a fairy godmother. Instead, our heroine plants a tree on her mother’s grave from which all of the magical help appears in the form of a white dove and gifts. At the end, the stepsisters’ eyes are pecked by birds from the tree to punish them for their cruelty.
To further expand the cross-culture experience of the Delta International Series, the Fox Theatre offers pre-show workshops that focus on the countries or the type of performance presented by each show. Prior to the performance of Cinderella, the Good Moves Dance Ensemble will demonstrate a few pieces from the show, and also will hold a ballet class for anyone who wants to learn some steps. The lecture/demonstration starts at 7:10 p.m. and runs until 7:45 p.m.
Cinderella plays The Fabulous Fox Theatre Jan. 11.
Brooke Phillips is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.