Music Serge Prokovief
choreography Thierry Malandain
production manager & lighting design Jean-Claude Asquié
Set and costumes Jorge Gallardo
Costumes production Véronique Murat
Set and accesory production Chloé Bréneur, Alain Cazaux, Annie Onchalo
Wig makers François Dussourd, Georges Dejardin
Revival of Cinderella for the contemporary stage
The story of Cinderella has a place in the collective human psyche. A downtrodden maiden, helped by her fairy godmother, strives to find love and fulfil her dream while sending her oppressors to a bitter end. The story, filled with symbolisms, has been retold countless times on stage including numerous ballet productions. A fresh perspective is always going to be a challenge for any contemporary choreographer trying to revive this old tale. Thierry Malandain has managed to do so by developing a very personal approach, and yet remained faithful to the dramaturgy of the beloved Cinderella.
In Malandain’s vision, he explores themes that he holds dear. Cinderella is the path of a star, a dancing star. Modern in form but classical at heart, his Cinderella delights the audience with a minimalist set, inventive stagecraft and exquisite taste.
The story behind Malandain’s version
A masterful work is often the child of a long gestation. Malandain had many hesitations before taking on Cinderella. He felt the 1985 Maguy Marin production, which set the ballet in a dollhouse, was almost perfection. And then there is his relationship with Prokofiev’s music. Malandain wrote, “[Prokofiev] composed a music sounding sincere, but sometimes contorted, ironic and harsh. I often kept his music at bay because it reflected in me like a faithful mirror and because I preferred to paint a less gloomy picture of my soul.”
Malandain did later choreograph for Profokiev’s last opus “La Fleur de Pierre” to great success. But something else was needed to prompt him to take on Cinderella. It finally came when he was offered the opportunity to stage it in the Royal Opera of Versailles, as well as the impetus providedby a Nietzsche quote - «One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star».
In Greek mythology, chaos gave birth to the earth, the starry sky, and love. In the tale, Cinderella, considered by her cruel stepmother as a good-for-nothing, was made to clean the hearth and live among the ashes. But she became an accomplished young woman, a dancing star, thanks to love. This coming true of a dream symbolises self-fulfilment.
Every person can relate to Cinderella. Her doubt, denial, pain, hopes and cry for light. It is a cry for the serene brightness of stars to counterbalance an inner chaos. Malandain created his Cinderella to escape from the dark realities and from bleeding humanity, ignorance and human stupidity, and in a nutshell, to transcend the ordinary.
A stylish and clever production
It is said that this ballet was created on a shoestring, but budget cannot diminish artistic brilliance when the stars align. There is no change of scene, and the entire piece is performed on a stage whose only decorations are black stilettos hanging on three sides of the stage. It is stripped of pretence, but instead radiates real pleasure derived from humanity, the magic of the tale and the magnificence of its music. Malandain tells the story of Cinderella as we know it, but without the darker undertones that other productions often have. Humour is cleverly interwoven within the story, with the laughter of burlesque scenes counterbalancing dreamlike or unhappy episodes.
Danced on soft shoes, Malandain’s choreography allows the dancers’ technical brilliance to shine. Prokofiev’s music envisages Cinderella as a classical ballet with variations, adagios and pas de deux, requiring a corps de ballet of around 30 dancers. To get around this with a smaller company, Malandain uses a trick to double his number of dancers to arrange the climax: the ball at the court. His other inventive ideas include turning the pumpkin carriage into a simple wheel, and the glass slipper, a black stiletto. The overall grey tone and use of geometry lend the ballet a surprisingly modern and fashionable outlook but the mythical elements of Cinderella are kept in tact.
Thierry Malandain, the neoclassic choreographer
Nowadays one of the very few choreographers who remain obedient to classical ballet, Malandain followed the usual path of a classical dancer but with a strong taste for the unconventional and an unusual tenacity. After a 10-year career as a dancer at Paris Opera Ballet, Rhine Opera Ballet and Nancy Ballet, where he made his start as a choreographer, Malandain set up his own company in 1986 in the suburbs of Paris. Soon gaining international recognition, he collaborated with prestigious institutions and dancers, and was appointed head of the first classical National Choreographic Centre in 1997. His ballets are listed in the repertoire of companies worldwide and in France.
Known to be very demanding in his choice of music, Malandain even created ballets for opera house companies. This positioning was unusual for the French choreographic community but embraced first by the international audience. He was lauded as the French choreographer who achieved the feat of creating Les Sylphides to the music of Frédéric Chopin for the Ballet royal de Wallonie, and Petite Lune, to a score by Dmitri Shostakovitch for the Royal Ballet of Flanders, both in 1990.
About Malandain Ballet Biarritz
In 1997, the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and the City of Biarritz invited Malandain to set up the Contemporary Choreographic Centre in the Basque coastal resort of Biarritz. It was soon followed by the opening of the National Choreographic Centre – Ballet Biarritz in September 1998 in the Gare du Midi, a large building abandoned by trains and whose two big square towers overlook Biarritz’s pleasant gardens.
In August 2009, Malandain was made an “officier” in the Order of Arts and Letters, and the new name of the company, "Malandain Ballet Biarritz", heralded a new era for the acclaimed choreographer. With more than 80 works to his credit, Malandain has developed a very personal vision of dance. He is committed to finding harmony between classical and contemporary dance and between history and today’s world, through his own versions of classical ballets (Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, The Nutcracker or L’Après-Midi d’un faune), and pure creations (Magifique, Une Dernière Chanson, Estro, and Lucifer).