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This Ballet Production of the Classic Cinderella Fairytale Is Funny, Romantic and Accessible for All

Oksana Maslova and Sterling Baca, Photo by Alexander Iziliaev

When it comes to ballet, there’s a lot to appreciate about the intricacies of the art form and the stunning physical movement required of the best of the best. But even if you’re new to ballet, there’s nothing more entrancing than its ability to tell impactful stories that stay with you long after you leave the theater–something that Philadelphia Ballet is demonstrating with its production of Cinderella, running from October 13 to 23.

“With ballet, people of all ages can share in beautiful moments that create an incredible experience,” says Angel Corella, The Ruth & A. Morris Williams, Jr. Artistic Director at Philadelphia Ballet. “And now, we’re seeing people starting to go back to the theater and share these amazing experiences together.”

That’s particularly true of this season at the Ballet. If you’ve never experienced the magic of live ballet in a theater before, it’s the perfect opportunity to do so. Their fall slate is packed with recognizable tales on the Academy of Music stage and productions that are accessible for ballet enthusiasts and novices alike. 

There’s no better example than their season opener: Cinderella, running for ten performances, is a classic with choreography by Ben Stevenson, a former dancer with Britain’s Royal Ballet who is renowned for his storytelling and the splendor of his productions. We spoke to Corella about how the Ballet is pulling off the magic this year.

Nayara Lopes and Dancers of Pennsylvania Ballet, Photo by Alexander Iziliaev

A Tale Made Timeless

It all starts with the story, according to Corella.

“It is a delight to embark on our new season with one of the most beloved and classic family stories, which is sure to capture the imagination of ballet lovers of all ages,” Corella says. And while it’s fair to say that most people are familiar with the fairytale of Cinderella–there’s the evil stepmother and stepsisters and the iconic glass slipper–the production also has a few refreshing surprises for modern audiences.  

For example, in addition to main characters like Cinderella and Prince Charming, Cinderella’s stepfather is in the picture, and, in a twist, the evil stepsisters are played by male dancers that know how to deliver laughs. Be on the lookout for the jester, who consistently steals scenes. 

“My favorite thing about the production is the comedy and the lightness of the show,” Corella says, noting its universal appeal. “We want to invite everyone to laugh, to clap, to be part of the experience.”

The show is also a technical marvel, with lots of scenery changes and a consistent depth and complexity of imagery. It all culminates with the spectacle of the finale, where a large pumpkin is revealed to be the carriage that carries Cinderella into the ballroom to meet her Prince Charming.

The production makes these kinds of boldly creative elements accessible and fun for everyone, the story made immersive through masterful execution. Ultimately, according to Corella, it all comes back to the skill of the dancers themselves.  

“Ballet is one of the few art forms that doesn’t require any language — there’s no barriers in the performance,” Corella says. “Our dancers are not only technically wonderful, but they’re also great actors and incredibly skilled at portraying these characters. They bring an energy and freshness to every single role.” 

The result doesn’t just produce wonder, but also emotional engagement. Sergei Prokofiev’s inspired and expansive score drives this home, reinforcing an engaging telling of the timeless story about making dreams come true and reaching for a happily ever after that creates a direct connection with the audience. 

“We all have a little bit of a dancer within ourselves,” Corella says. “The way that we use our hands and our body and our eyes — it’s a way of expressing and communicating between human beings. In that sense, ballet is an organized and beautiful form of physical communication.” 

According to Shelly Power, the Dr. Carolyn Newsom executive director of Philadelphia Ballet, it’s the way the production brings together all these different elements of flawless execution to create a story that anyone can relate to, which makes it perfect for the coming season. 

“It is always a thrill to inaugurate a new performance season, and it is hard to imagine a more fitting opening production than Cinderella, a ballet that continues to delight audiences young and old with its heartwarming story and enchanting choreography,” Power says. “Whether you know the tale by heart or are experiencing it for the very first time, Cinderella offers something for everyone to treasure.”

Dancers of Pennsylvania Ballet, Photo by Alexander Iziliaev

Looking Ahead to the Philadelphia Ballet Season

Philadelphia Ballet has a storied history — it was founded in 1963 and has long been considered a city treasure. With a company of 45 dancers from around the world, Philadelphia Ballet has, for decades, consistently picked productions that wow and entertain its audiences. 

Now, looking to the future, Corella is working with the company to usher it into a new era and redefine expectations.

“We’re creating our own identity,” Corella says. To that end, for the rest of its season, Philadelphia Ballet will be putting on productions of other well-known tales like Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. And if you find yourself wondering which production to see, Corella assures audiences that everyone will be able to have a fun experience at all their upcoming productions–but the season opener is definitely a can’t-miss performance. 

“We hope our audiences will join us for a production full of magic, romance, and breathtaking dance as the company returns to the stage this October,” Corella says. “The whole show is quite spectacular.”  

Philadelphia Ballet’s 2022-2023 season gets underway with its production of Cinderella October 13-23. For more information on Cinderella and the other productions of Philadelphia Ballet’s upcoming 2022/2023 season, which include George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, New Works, The Sleeping Beauty, a trio of works by George Balanchine, and Coppélia, please visit philadelphiaballet.org.