This Saturday was a gorgeous day – just the right kind of day for playing at the park or having a picnic! It was exactly the wrong kind of day for sitting in a dark theatre. Nonetheless, when we arrived at Swarthmore Ballet Theatre we were not the only patrons who felt lucky to be there!
Lori Ardis Ballet Company performances are almost always sold out weeks in advance. If you want to take in this unique Swarthmore experience, you will have to plan accordingly. I arrived about an hour before Cinderella tickets went on sale to the public for the first time. A line had already formed but I was able to secure five coveted tickets for the opening performance!
When we arrived, we were told that children could choose to sit on the floor, close to the stage. Two of my little helpers were delighted to be so near the action! I am happy to report that not one child seated on the floor made a peep during the entire production. Like the rest of us, they were mesmerized.
The lights dimmed, and Mrs. Ardis set the stage by telling the first part of the Cinderella story in a way that all members of the audience could understand. Then the Prokofiev swelled and the performance began.
Emma Sniegowski was a lovely Cinderella – her technique was beautiful and she had a modest demeanor and gentleness to her quality of movement from start to finish that really embodied the character.
Denise Hodges, Olivia Labows and Arbour Guthrie as the step-mother, and step-sisters Haughty and Flighty provided great comic relief. Guthrie in particular, as Flighty, was exquisitely funny. From the tips of her pointes to the ends of her ponytails she exuded an infectious happy-go-lucky goofiness.
When William Hodges as the dance master and Eleanor Runiewicz as his assistant joined the family to teach the step-sisters how to dance the silliness that ensued had the audience laughing aloud.
After the step-sisters left, Sniegowski was joined by Lucy Hall’s delicate yet dynamic fairy godmother, and a bevy of little dragonflies. The audience would have been captivated if the tiny dragonflies had simply come out and run around in circles, but Ardis and Flynn had much higher expectations. The eight little dancers whirled and leapt with a frenzied energy and in perfect unison. Precision was necessary for safety, given the size of the stage and the number of performers – demonstrating Ardis and Flynn’s confidence that these very young performers would be consistent in their performance. The little mice and horses were held to the same high standards and were also a joy to watch.
Then the fairies and their helpers arrived. Each performed beautifully. The standout was Anna Si as the Summer Fairy. When she arrived on the stage, one little audience member sighed “She’s beautiful!” Si is beautiful and she was beautifully costumed too. Her graceful arms and glamorous smile were reminiscent of a young Patricia McBride. During the ball scene, Si dropped the glamour and had the whole house giggling as she performed as the mischievous instrument played by hapless musician William Hodges.
Other favorite dancers at the ball were Daniel Cho and Grace Hodges in the Waltz, and Mia Davis and Ellen McCullough as the dancers with oranges. But truly, every performer was wonderful to watch. And of course, Cinderella and her Prince rewarded us with the stunning pas de deux we were waiting for!
After the Ball, the Prince searched the world for Cinderella. The princesses danced and tried on shoes with elegant abandon, while Tony Venuto kept us all laughing as the punctilious courtier.
Cinderella got her Prince at the end, but not before step-mother, Denise Hodges, tried to force her foot into the magic slipper while throwing coquettish gazes at the Prince, Donn Guthrie, to the audience’s delight!
All in all, it was a wonderful, light-hearted performance! Lori Ardis and Amber Flynn’s choreography was carefully crafted to show off the very talented dancers, and highlight their acting skills. As I blogged after seeing The Nutcracker at Swarthmore Ballet Theatre last winter, I am again blown away at the care given to each detail of the production. Every dancer, large and small, was fully committed to his or her role and the resulting performance was beautiful because of it.
Tickets to this production of Cinderella are nearly sold out – there may be a few seats left for performances at 11am and 7:30pm this Saturday, June 7th – ticket sales begin 30 minutes before each performance. The best way to remember your tickets to the next production is to sign your children (or yourself) up for classes! You can visit www.swarthmoreballettheatre.com for more info!
The program notes that Lori Ardis Ballet Company is a non-profit educational organization. All dancers in LABC productions are provided with costumes and at least two hours per weekend of professional level ballet rehearsal at no cost. Donations to the Ballet Company are tax deductible.