Why a New Twist Means You Won't Want to Miss Scottish Ballet's Cinders at Newcastle Theatre Royal
Cinders comes to Newcastle Theatre Royal from Wednesday 7th-Saturday 10th February, with a twist on the classic tale…
On revisiting his production of Cinderella (first staged with Scottish Ballet in 2015), Christopher brought this idea of reversing genders, as well as a playful element of surprise. Audiences will not know whether they are seeing Cinders dance with her prince or his princess until the curtain rises.
Christopher hopes it allows audiences to see a wider representation of gendered roles on stage and open up conversations about whether it matters who gets to play a certain role. ‘It shouldn’t really matter… but we know it does, because that’s why we’re talking about it,’ he says. It allows new experiences to come to light.
As well as allowing the female character to dance to the big, impassioned music and be in a space that she owns and is in control of (traits typically associated with male dancers), in portraying Cinders as a man, we see his feelings of vulnerability, longing and insecurity, which for a male dancer is not often done.
With the creative freedom that comes with revisiting a ballet, in Cinders, Christopher tries to ‘undo some of the history of storytelling, where there’s a judgement on not being part of a bloodline’ by changing the role of the stepmother into simply a new family that appears in Cinders’ life.
The careful unpicking of the original casting is also partly the reason why, for Christopher, both characters change gender rather than changing the main story to a same-sex relationship: ‘I felt on this outing if we try do every single permutation it could possibly be, we’re not saying anything at all. But if we say one thing… then more conversations can come off that one thing.’ With such a big production, there is also an element of practicality in what the dancers are able to relearn this time round.
Principal dancer Bruno Micchiardi and Guest principal Jessica Fyfe have found the process of remaking this Cinders an open and collaborative experience with Christopher. Both dancers had to catch themselves and their habits within rehearsals...
Bruno explains: ‘With the timing, I’m used to always being ahead. I’m used to offering my hand first… or I would normally take a first step towards the female character.’ This process has brought a freshness and curiosity to the production, as well as confusion: an ‘interesting mesh of choreography’ would sometimes emerge in the studio, laughs Bruno, as the dancers navigated jumping between different roles. For Jessica, fundamentally human themes emerge; Cinders is a simple love story of two characters meeting across a divide.
The dance where the characters first meet remains choreographically similar, regardless of which role they are playing; the differences come with the solos which lead up to their central meeting, and crucially, their intentions when performing their joint choreography, which also change depending on who they are playing.
For Christopher, it’s always a privilege to go back to a ballet – particularly now that his relationship with the dancers has developed since its first outing – and start pulling threads (‘the rest then starts to unravel,’ he smiles). Yes, Cinders is different to how he first created it – and for Jessica and Bruno, these new perspectives almost make it into a new ballet – but Christopher assures us, audiences expecting a spectacular production will not be disappointed, and there’ll certainly be no shortage of magic.