Kate O’Neill retired as the dance and theatre critic for the Lansing State Journal and was inducted into the Lansing Dance Hall of Fame in 2017.
Wharton has presented a wonderful variety of dance companies in the past few seasons, but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen an evening-long, traditional ballet classic on Wharton’s Performing Arts Series. That’s about to change when World Ballet Series brings the ballet “Cinderella,” danced to the familiar Prokofiev score, to the Wharton stage on Tuesday, October 10 at 7 p.m.
While this is World Ballet Series’ first appearance on the Performing Arts Series, the company first performed on the Wharton stage just last year, having rented the Cobb Hall to present another ballet classic, “Swan Lake.”
The 50-member company is relatively new to the touring scene in the United States. It was founded just four years ago by Gulya Hartwick and Sasha Gorskaya, two Los Angeles-based promoters of music acts. Then Hartwick’s longtime love of ballet turned her thoughts to organizing a new ballet touring company.
Now it is a multinational troupe of dancers from Italy, France, Poland, Japan, Belarus, and the United Kingdom. “We tend to hire dancers who have been trained in the Vaganova method rather than the Balanchine technique, which is more common in the United States,” says Hartwick.
“Cinderella” was choreographed by prize-winning Estonian choreographer, Marina Kesler. Hartwick and Gorskaya started planning the production during the first year of the Covic pandemic. “It took us almost a year to gather the creative team (costume and set designers, the choreographer),” says Gorskaya. Because the company performs in venues of all sizes, the hand-painted scenery can be scaled up or down. The costumes, made in Ukraine are all hand-sewn.
While everyone knows the story of “Cinderella,” there will be some surprises in this production, Hartwick says. She wasn’t willing to give them away, but she urged audiences to watch what happens when the Fairy Godmother decides what to do with Cinderella’s mean stepsisters at the end of the ballet.
Here’s a professional production that no seasoned ballet fan in the area will want to miss. But Hartwick is also hoping to see some first-time ballet-goers in the audience. “We want to send a message that ballet is accessible and fun,” she said. “We want to share our love of ballet.”—Kate O’Neill