A Smokin' 'Cinderella'

An enhanced production of the beloved tale comes to Tucson.

Cinderella, says Ballet Tucson artistic director Mary Beth Cabana, is a "great way to cap off a big season."

So much so that the ballet company has spent $150,000 on a brand-new production of the classic fairy tale. Premiering this weekend at Centennial Hall, the ballet in three acts will be performed by 143 dancers whose pirouettes will be enhanced by elaborate new sets and costumes. The newly commissioned painted backdrops picture the ballroom at the prince's palace, an enchanted garden where the sad young cinder girl meets her fairy godmother, and Cinderella's house. When the prince, armed only with a glass slipper, goes in search of his true love, "He travels around the world," Cabana says, with a "vaudeville oleo style screen rolling, and the scene changing behind him."

Cabana and her cohort traveled to Los Angeles on a quest for perfect ball gowns that could be adapted for ballet, she says, and they looked even farther afield for guest dancers to take the leading roles. "They're both great artists," Cabana declares. Gina Ribera, a former principal dancer of the Cleveland Ballet and the National Ballet of Norway, dances Cinderella. "She's a friend," reports Cabana, who herself once danced with Cleveland Ballet. Taking the part of the prince is Lawrence Pech, who runs his own eponymous dance troupe in San Francisco. Previously Pech danced under Mikhail Baryshnikov at American Ballet Theatre and was a principal with San Francisco Ballet.

Kate Anderson, a Sugar Plum Fairy in Ballet Tucson's annual Nutcracker last December, will dance the Fairy Godmother. The rest of the dancers also hail from Ballet Tucson, which consists of professional adult dancers as well as advanced students and children studying at Ballet Arts, Cabana's respected school. A few parents will step to the music in the ballroom scene.

Chieko Imada, Ballet Tucson's assistant director and a former dancer with Tenth Street Danceworks, and company choreographer Mark Schneider share the choreography credits. Prokofiev's 1940s Cinderella score will be played on tape.

Cabana says the company's return to Centennial Hall marks a giant leap--make that grand jeté--forward for Ballet Tucson. The troupe first performed in the large university hall in the late 1980s, and after many years of performances at the smaller Proscenium Theatre at Pima College West this winter came back to stage Nutcracker. (The holiday favorite will once again be at Centennial in the coming season, though bumped up earlier in the month by a week-long run of The Full Monty just before Christmas.) In casting about for a second big show that could fill Centennial, Cabana and company hit upon Cinderella.

"It's a universally loved story, it's appealing to a large audience and it's family entertainment," she says. And with the kind of investment the company has put into the show, local audiences can expect to see it again, "maybe in two years."

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