NORMAN — A choice between a classic, pared down, modern interpretation of a fantasy waltz and a more leisurely but sustained and enjoyable exercise in old-fashioned storytelling is being offered by the Oklahoma Festival Ballet.
The two numbers, one short and the other lasting the rest of the evening, were previewed Wednesday at the University of Oklahoma's Reynolds Performing Arts Center.
Austin Lintner and Danielle Richard were light, airy and athletic, yet romantic without overdoing it, in the “Valse-Fantaisie,” originally choreographed by George Balanchine to music by Mikhail Glinka.
Interacting beautifully and almost effortlessly with the white-clad principal man and woman dancers were Kayla Davey, Rose Reida, Kelsey Huggins and Zane Kenig, wearing pink tops and gauzy skirts.
Balancing romantic, dramatic, narrative and humorous elements nicely was “Cinderella,” choreographed by Mary Margaret Holt and Steve Brule to music by Sergei Prokofiev, with costumes by Lloyd Cracknell.
Nicole Reehorst was poignant, psychologically vulnerable and powerful when she needed to be as Cinderella, looking to a portrait of her dead father to rise above the abuse of her two stepsisters and stepmother.
Particularly touching were early scenes in which Reehorst, wearing a dress made from strips of fabric, turned the broom thrust upon her into a fantasy dance partner and her apron into a kind of cape.
Alexandra Niemeyer conveyed the jaundiced attitude of the stepmother, while Donn Edwards in pink and Brule in blue were just malicious and maladroit enough in their drag portrayal of the stepsisters.
But Melanie Jensen filled the most crucial role as a Crone, whose bent, cloaked figure is transformed into that of the Fairy Godmother, ushering Cinderella into a forest glade, after the kitchen fireplace parts.
Clad in a glittering white dress, with four green male dragonfly attendants, Jensen presided with great aplomb over this forest kingdom, which changed magically from spring to summer, fall and winter.
Beautifully personifying the seasons, with precise dance movements, in eye-dazzling outfits, were Hanna Jew as Spring, Alyssa Grimsley as Summer, Sydney Gettel as Autumn and Natalie Kischuk as Winter.
It was in the act two palace ballroom scene, however, that the production reached its greatest heights, with magnificently costumed guests performing stylized, waltz-like numbers.
Leading them were Cinderella herself, clad in a beautiful gown instead of rags, and her Prince, portrayed with easy grace and unforced athleticism by Nathan Young, wearing boots and a fancy, form-fitting outfit.
Supplying comic relief at the ball was Zachary Leighton as the Jester, who made the most of his inappropriate but hilarious interactions with Edwards and Brule as the anxious-to-please but inept stepsisters.
Ending things on a high note were brief reprises of the kitchen and forest glade scenes in which the Jester acquits himself well by making sure that the lost slipper fits — Cinderella and not her stepsisters.
Lasting some two hours including two intermissions, the Oklahoma Festival Ballet production is highly recommended, especially for fans of classical ballet.
— John Brandenburg