PA Youth Ballet’s Cinderella | Casey Field (May 2015)

PA Youth Ballet’s Cinderella
Saturday, May 30, 2015
Zoellner Arts Center

by Casey Field

A fairytale came straight to life when Pennsylvania Youth Ballet dancers graced the stage at Zoellner Arts Center. This adaptation of Cinderella, choreographed by artistic director Karen Kroninger Knerr, was nothing short of enchanting. The most striking aspect is that this entire production was choreographed from scratch by Karen, using the only the music as inspiration.  Starting with a blank canvas and choreographing a full-length ballet for a cast of 75 people, including young children through adults, is nothing short of impressive for a local choreographer.

The first act began by following the fairytale version of the story. Cinderella, performed by star-student Rachel Altemose, was seen completing her chores and wistfully wishing to go to the ball. In this hilarious adaptation, the ugly stepsisters are played by men. Watching them prepare for the ball and receive dance lessons from the dance master produced many laughs from the audience and the acting involved was phenomenal. Then, the fairy godmother appears, the image of beauty and grace in her eye-catching, sparkling costume, dancing on the stage like a floating fairy. A major difference between the traditional story of Cinderella and the ballet is that it is the fairies that present Cinderella with her glass slippers, crown, and other accessories. Each fairy: spring, summer, fall, and winter, performed her variation with grace, the choreography an artistic representation of each season. The first act closes with Cinderella’s magnificent white carriage pulling up and whisking her away.

The second and third acts ran back to back with no intermission in between. The curtain opened to reveal the grand ball in full swing with a lot of dancing done by the corps de ballet. The audience was captivated to see Cinderella appear in her carriage, looking like the most beautiful girl at the ball. Rachel did an excellent job of using facial expressions and gestures to carry along the story throughout the ballet, and at this point she looked truly radiant, like a princess. Her pas de deux with the prince, performed by Anton Kandaurov of the Grand Rapids Ballet Company, was the most magical part of all and left many audience members with tears in their eyes. Cinderella and her prince executed the extremely technical choreography with such ease and grace, it felt as if they were just gliding across the stage. There were many turns and lifts that left the audience stunned and in awe of their technicality. It was truly impressive to see such advanced choreography performed with great skill and precision by such young dancers.  The second act comes to a close with the clock striking midnight and Cinderella is magically dressed in rags once again.

The third act includes more humor from the stepsisters and stepmother and ultimately the prince reveals that Cinderella is the true princess, dancing with her once more and spinning her around and around as the curtain drops. Overall, this ballet created a fairytale atmosphere throughout the entire theater. Between Cinderella’s glittering pointe shoes, the hilarious stepsisters, shimmering costumes, and and ornate carriage, every audience member was transported to a magical world, made even more enchanting by the incredibly talented dancers who graced the stage. Not only was the ballet itself charming, but there was a definite magic in the way Karen was able to maximize the talent and potential in each of her young students. Putting together a full, three-act ballet is no small feat, and this ever-growing company came through to create an afternoon of magic and enchantment equivalent to something you would see from a big-name, professional company in New York City. When asked what it was like to see her first full-length ballet come to life on stage, Karen replied that “It feels truly wonderful.” I am sure that every dance lover in the Lehigh Valley will be anxiously awaiting what is next to come.