A scene from Moscow Festival Ballet’s ‘Cinderella.’
Hey, it's early January and this is Toledo.
That means it's time for the Moscow Festival Ballet's busload of 50 highly trained Russian ballet dancers to roll into town and rock this city with another sparkling performance.
This year's show is “Cinderella,” set to be presented at 8 p.m. Friday at the Valentine Theatre.
Cinderella, old-fashioned and courtly, still reigns as the world's fave love story, a decorous tale in which goodness and truth triumph over greed and deception.
Although the rags-to-riches plot has roots in cultures around the world, French fableist Charles Perrault wrote the version of the story on which this production is based.
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Set to the original 1945 score by Sergei Prokofiev, this full-length ballet originally was choreographed by the Russian artist Rostislav Zakharov, but has since been altered and adapted by the company's own artistic management.
Still, despite cuts and new staging, the story basically tells itself, assisted by ornate sets and lavish costumes by designer Elisaveta Dvorkina.
And there is the Prokofiev score, modern and angular, though still wonderfully melodic and dramatic.
Much like last month's traditional classic, The Nutcracker, the MFB's version of Cinderella offers a chance to sample a variety of world dance styles.
The ballet opens in Cinderella's house, where the put-upon young woman is at the mercy of heartless stepmother and stepsisters as the invitation to a ball at the royal palace arrives.
As ungainly in their dancing as in their characters, the sisters, danced by Elena Khorosheva and Natalia Ivanova, are resistant to attempts by the dance master to polish up their footwork.
After their departure, a forlorn Cinderella is visited by the magical fairy godmother, with her attendant fairies of the four seasons, and soon is on her way to the royal party.
Act II opens at the palace with the ball in full swing. Humor comes in solos by a Jester. Once more, Cinderella's kind heart glows in a scene in which guests are offered oranges, the rarest of foods, with one of the Stepsisters left out. The younger woman, treated so badly by this stepsister, nonetheless gives her the coveted citrus treat, without being recognized.
After the pivotal midnight departure, with its glass slipper souvenir left behind for the Prince, Cinderella and her family return to their home, where the hunt for the foot to fit the slipper soon lands on their doorway.
After the denouement — oh, happy day! — the home is transformed into a forested glade and a variety of balletic ambassadors from Mauritania, Spain, China, and Russia take turns amusing the delighted guests.
The title role is shared by three soloists: Maria Kluyeva, Maria Sokolnikova, and Marianna Chemalina. Which one will perform Friday in Toledo was not available at press time.
Sharing the role of Prince will be Konstantin Marikin and Kiril Safin, and twirling the stage as Jester will be either Eldar Sarsembaev, Slava Tapkharov, or Pavel Bochkovskiy.
Double or triple casting major roles is often the norm for professional companies because of the huge physical demands placed on the individual dancer. It's possible that an announcement at the concert will identify specific performers.
But reaching this company is a challenge for several reasons, as explained by their agent, Madelaine Collinson, who is traveling with MFB abroad and in the United States.
“Telephone interviews do not work, there is not enough English spoken,” she said from somewhere on the road.
Evidently cell phones also are not used because Collinson mentioned the lack of wi-fi aboard the bus as a reason for a slow turn-around in replying.
Moscow Festival Ballet was in town last year, to perform Sleeping Beauty, another favorite from its limited but popular repertoire.
And, when it's not the MFB, then the Russian National Ballet, its artistic sister, will stop for a show.
Both companies were created in 1989 by Sergei and Irina Radchenko, Bolshoi dancers looking to expand the market for Russian dance and to give extensively trained dancers from the Bolshoi and Kirov, a chance to travel and expand their horizons.
The repertoire shared by the companies includes Giselle, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, and Chopiniana.
That both companies continue to thrive during long road-trip tours, long after Perestroika, speaks to both the quality of the dancing and the European and American public's enduring taste for classical ballet.
Such is the training which, no matter who is in the Kremlin, continues to receive support and acclaim in Russia. Audiences can count on pure and refined pointe work, gasp-inducing leaps, mind-numbing pirouettes, and extensions that seem impossible from performers in either company.
Among the productions I have seen, the big attraction is typically the precise and artful dancing in performances which are polished and well-executed, if largely lacking in drama or personal charisma.
Although other countries offer their own distinctive brands of wonderful training, there is still something distinct about angle, attitude, altitude, and detail created by dancers who came up through the Russian method.
Tickets for the Moscow Festival Ballet performance of Cinderella are $36-56 at www.valentinetheatre.com/ticket or 419-242-2787.
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