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'Cinderella' ballet is a witty take on a classic

| Monday, April 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Elysa Hotchkiss rehearses for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s upcoming production of “Cinderella.”
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Alexandra Kochis as Cinderella rehearses with Stephen Hadala and Joseph Parr as the step sisters for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s upcoming production of “Cinderella.”
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Stephen Hadala and Joseph Parr rehearse as the step sisters for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s upcoming production of “Cinderella.”
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Alexandra Kochis rehearses for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s upcoming production of “Cinderella.”
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Eva Trapp rehearses a lift for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s upcoming production of “Cinderella.”

There are many ways to tell any story, no less in dance than in words or music.

One of the joys and burdens Terrence Orr experiences as artistic director of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is to decide which version of a popular ballet, such as “Cinderella,” to choose for his dancers and the audience.

Orr likes Septime Webre's version of “Cinderella, which the ballet performed in 2009.

“He has a true understanding of the Cinderella story — what dreams are made of and what better dream than being with the person you love,” Orr says.

The Webre version also has the advantage of a humorous treatment of the stepsisters who make Cinderella's life miserable.

“It's always great to hear kids laughing in the audience,” Orr says. “I remember from the last time we did it, and I feel the cast is even stronger this time.”

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will perform Webre's “Cinderella” April 19 to 21 at the Benedum Center, Downtown. Sergei Prokofiev's score will be performed live by Charles Barker and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Orchestra.

Four rotating casts will be employed in “Cinderella.” In addition, 20 children from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School will portray the enchanted garden creatures, such as bumblebees, snow angels and butterflies, who are brought to life by the Fairy Godmother.

Alexandra Kochis is one of the four dancers assigned the title role. She likes Webre's version because it, unlike other productions she's been involved with, tries to make it a fairly tale.

“He doesn't try to make it realistic. The stepsisters are super over-the-top and comedic. The kids love it, but it's hard (for me) to be the straight person onstage while they're being so ridiculous.”

Kochis also likes the way Webre brings out the dreamer quality in Cinderella.

“In the kitchen scene, when she's by herself, it's not just 64 counts of dancing,” she says. “Her changes of thought when she gets ideas to do something fun, the dreamer quality within her, is what helps you get through the drudgery of her life. The music helps because it does ebb and flow. You really can get carried away with yourself and then come down to earth.”

Steve Hadala is looking forward to playing one of the stepsisters again because they're the next big roles after Cinderella, and Webre's choreography is such fun to do.

“When it's two guys paired up getting to goof around for two hours, it's going to be a good time under a controlled situation. A drag role, a man dressed up like a woman, can go so quickly into poor taste, but our sheer size and build makes wearing a dress half the joke. I do some over-the-top things but more of it is an imitation of ‘Swan Lake' arms and steps. I just want to be a giant guy looking like a giant swan.”

Barker says it's tough to choose his favorite Prokofiev score between “Romeo and Juliet” and “Cinderella,” but, while both are great, “Cinderella” has a certain sparkle that “Romeo” doesn't.

“One of the key things I go for in the rehearsals with the orchestra is to sound as witty and brilliant, as keen and precise, as Prokofiev wanted,” he says

In his view, the first three notes of the ballet tell the members of the audience to be prepared for something much greater than they expected. The Russian composer's inspiration never flags in this score.

“The penultimate piece in the ballet, a pas de deux, contains everything — all the emotions, all the love and outpouring of the human soul — all in six minutes,” he says. “I would be hard pressed to come up with a more beautiful piece ever written.”

Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

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