Manassas Ballet Theatre's three performances of "Cinderella" May 20-22 set records for the company and demonstrated that the arts not only have survived but are thriving.
With over 1,000 attendees in Merchant Hall at the Hylton Performing Arts Center for the Sunday matinee and the equivalent of a full orchestra audience at each of the two evening performances, the ballet's attendance for its 2021-22 season finale surpassed previous ones.
More importantly, the audience members were enthusiastically engaged with recognition by applause and acclamation for soloists' skillful and breathtaking moves, laughter for the many humorous interactions well-portrayed by the dancers as actors, proud acknowledgement of the Academy students' progress and special inclusion, and the glorious ovations for dancer Kaitlin Frankenfield's finale lasting through three curtain calls.
Vadim Slavitskiy's excellent choreography ranged from classical ballet to purposeful, humorous pratfalls, thrilling solos, charming duets and intriguing full stage ensembles.
Costume mistress Juli Masters and her team created costumes that enhanced the view of the dancers and supported the atmosphere of the scenes. Tim Grant's phenomenal new "leg drops" -- scenery painted on massive canvases which hang like curtains -- gave the viewers a 3D perspective. The lighting effects provided soft and bright scene settings -- most dynamic was the golden sun for the Summer Fairies.
The mean treatment of Cinderella, Kaitlin Frankenfield, by her stepsisters, played by Victoria Bartlett and Alex De Nardi, was softened by the humorous teasing and clumsy antics of their dance lessons. Children's giggles were audible as was the chuckling of adults.
The rude-turned-comic behavior of Stepmother (Debora Greer) toward Cinderella's father (Vadim Slavitskiy) was rendered moot when audience members hinted and hoped that he recognized his daughter at the ball and smiled when his pride showed as Cinderella would marry the Prince and live happily ever after.
Many future ballerinas dressed as Cinderella and Fairy Godmother accessorized with tiaras and wands and sparkling shoes tiptoed down the aisles to their seats in Merchant Hall. The "ooos" and "ahhs" rose from all ages as the professional dancers demonstrated their skillful moves and when Cinderella and her Prince danced their pas de deux and each danced their solos.
Each time the young Academy students entered from stage left or right as members of the fairy corps, pages and children of the court, their preparatory steps earned encouraging murmurs from the audience. It was heartwarming to witness.
At the beginning of Act III, the Prince and his jester travel the world to find the owner of the slipper, bringing in pairs of women dancers reminiscent of Nutcracker's Spanish, Arabian and Chinese costumes. The dramatic last scenes were well-choreographed, creating a bit of tension as one knows the Prince will find his love, but unsure in this retelling just when he will be successful.
The Manassas Ballet Theatre was recently honored as the 2022 Kathleen K. Seefeldt awardee as Outstanding Arts Organization.
The appreciative audience honored the last performance of Kaitlin Frankenfield with the ballet with lots of flowers and cheers. To play the role of one of the most endearing fairy tale princesses and to have future ballerinas ask to have their photos with her, leaves Kaitlin with a happy hope that their wishes will come true, too.
If you weren't able to experience the Manassas Ballet's "Cinderella" in person, the recording can be watched online for 30 days starting June 4 at this link: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/mbtcinderella