I discovered Anna Tsygankova through watching a video of Dutch National Ballet’s Cinderella choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. In this version of Cinderella Anna is partnered with Matthew Golding (Mami’s favourite male dancer).
Prokoviev’s music for Cinderella is breathtakingly emotional, but even though I had seen it many times, I had never felt the emotion of the music until I saw the Dutch National’s version. The traditional versions which I know well, such as Fredrick Ashton’s famous production for the Royal Ballet, has the role of the ugly sisters performed by two old men. In these productions, with their pantomime routines, I find the ballet neither funny or insightful.
Wheeldon’s alternative version has been informed by re-reading the original story, especially referencing ideas he picked up out of the Brothers Grimm version of the fairy tale. The result is a ballet that is full of wonderful surprises. Characters such as the two step sisters are no longer cruel caricatures of ugliness wedded to wickedness, instead the girls are real people for which we can have sympathy without giving them our approval for their cruel behaviour. The big gain in all this is Prokoviev’s score, which now sings and gives emotional clarity to the dancing.
Act 1 opens with a woman’s soft cough. Cinderella’s mother is dying and the music is talking. A little girl is running, grasping at the air for the fading memories of her lost mother.
We next meet as an adult Cinderella next to her mother’s grave where a young tree is now growing. Her step mother is there too, pointedly giving Cinderella a bunch flowers to put on her mothers grave, and then making a show that Cinderella’s father now belongs to her step sisters. This is no longer a fairy tale, it is abuse as we all experience it to happen. The music pulls at our heart strings.
There is no fairy godmother either, instead Cinderella is escorted through the ballet by four fates that navigate her precious good nature through the stormy weather of domestic abuse. The two step sisters are pretty girls but badly brought up and out of control. The younger one with glasses is being bullied by the elder, and as unhappy as Cinderella, and all of this discord is because Cinderella has a witty cruel stepmother who is over-ambitious for her daughters.
Cinderella’s father is a weak personality torn between looking after Cinderella and appeasing the appetites of his new wife’s family.
The tree becomes central figure of the story
Out of the tree come spirits that teach Cinderella to dance and transform her from being a simple girl into the Belle of the ball.
The whole production is a visual feast of stagecraft embellished by the evocative score and dancing. At the end we are all mentally exhausted and emotionally satiated
Anna Tsygankova, and Matthew Golding steal the show.
Here are some more images of Anna. I will be working on images of Matthew later.