Opening Nights: Cinderella

A family-friendly ballet lures the audiences of the future.

Pacific Northwest Ballet opened its 40th-anniversary season with a program designed to develop an audience for the next 40 years. Cinderella tells a familiar fairy tale, and though Kent Stowell's 1994 adaptation added some backstory to the plot, it's still an eminently family-friendly work. Audiences last weekend were full of little princes and princesses in party clothes, and with 20-plus children in the cast, they saw versions of themselves onstage, as well as more grown-up characters.

One of the virtues of this Cinderella is its large number of roles. On opening night, Carla Körbes was a charming Cinderella, with Karel Cruz as her gallant prince, building on their partnership from last year's Don Quixote. Carrie Imler was regal and tender as the godmother, while Laura Gilbreath was the nasty equivalent as the stepmother. Both Jonathan Porretta and Benjamin Griffiths displayed their best tricks as the Jester—Porretta throwing a hop into the middle of a grueling series of turns on opening night; Griffiths taking out the hop but adding an aerial flip to the end of the sequence during Saturday's matinee. Most roles are shared, and Lesley Rausch's Cinderella demonstrated well-thought-out acting choices, adding depth to the part she last performed two years ago. Kiyon Gaines danced Harlequin with great zest. Having spent more time as a choreographer than a dancer recently, his appearance was particularly welcome.

Alongside this fairy tale, the opening-night audience saw Jerome Robbins' Circus Polka, with special guest ringmistress Patricia Barker and a slide show drawn from 40 years of PNB history. But there was a sad element amid all this sweetness—a memorial to PNB designer Martin Pakledinaz, who died this July. His costumes for Cinderella were some of his loveliest, especially the variegated gowns for the "Four Seasons" divertissement in Act II. He would have been very gratified by the oohs and ahhs from the audience as Cinderella makes her appearance at the Prince's ball, shimmering just like a ballerina on a young girl's music box.

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