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Flash Review 1, 5-3: Magic
Marin Casts Another Spell in "Cendrillon"

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright The Dance Insider 2002

BERKELEY -- If any other choreographer has demonstrated the chops to address the human condition in as enchanted a language as Maguy Marin has, I don't know who she is. The French choreographer's 1985 take on the tale of Cinderella, "Cendrillon," returned to the San Francisco Bay Area last night at Cal Performances' Zellerbach Hall to remind us of ballet's power to create magic.

Marin's Cinderella, as enacted by the Lyon Opera Ballet, takes place in a doll-house: The characters inhabit three stories of a structure also three rooms wide, and each dances behind a porcelain-like doll's mask, constructed by Monique Luyton. At first this trick would seem to rob the dancers of facial expression, but in fact it neutralizes a feature that should never be a factor in how we evaluate dance: how pretty or handsome the dancer is.

Wicked magic: Maguy Marin's Cendrillon is harassed by her step-sisters and step-mother in the Lyon Opera Ballet production.

And it's a dancer who carries the tale. As charming as are the special effects, including a row of blinking red lights that swathes Cinderella's transparent hoopy ballroom gown, the emotional anchor is Susana Rizzuelo's heartbreaking purity in the lead roll. The robotic (or to be kinder, Noh-like), almost mincing movement Marin employs in general sometimes gets a little tiring but, especially combined with the way she arches her back as if to look up at the wonders above her and how she tilts her head askew in an attitude of curiosity, it mesmerizes on Rizzuelo.

As eye-candy and to set a mood, Montserrat Casanova's sets and (literally) sparkling costumes enhanced the fairy tale-like qualities of this production. For a chariot, the pumpkin is replaced by a miniature cherry pink convertible just big enough for Cinderella to zoom away in. Marketa Plzakova's Fairy appears first as stuffed doll pulled from a green box which suddenly comes to life, rattling a Star Wars-like saber to announce her spells, her Nutcracker Prince-like pantsuit glittering like a Christmas tree. And prince Pierre Advokatoff's post-ball search for the woman who can wear the sparkling slipper is portrayed on the third story by an Italian landscape rolling by a figure of the prince on a rocking horse. The search is also enlivened by stops to evaluate two ethnic candidates: Maite Cebrian-Abad's skirt-ruffling Spanish Woman, who kicks her leg up to have the shoe fitted, and Marie-Gaelle Communal's "Oriental Woman," who contorts hers for her attempt.

The only grimace this production produces comes at the beginning, when you realize the music will be canned, Prokofiev's magnificent score played not live but in a recording. This might be so that Marin can introduce the sounds of babies gabbling, but this effect becomes over-used by the end.

Maguy Marin's "Cendrillon" is performed again tonight at Zellerbach Hall by Lyon Opera Ballet, which concludes its Bay Area season Saturday and Sunday with a mixed all-Ravel program.

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