The Vienna Festival Ballet’s version of Cinderella opens with the magical scene of three dancing mice capering on the stage as Cinderella dozes with her ginger cat in the foreground. We’re immediately treated to lovely costumes and an idyllic country kitchen backdrop, whetting our appetite for more to come.

Once the cat and Cinderella wake to join the fun, Cinderella’s gentle kindness and sensitivity is evident as she defends and saves the mice from the rapacious feline.

In contrast, the ugly sisters burst onto the stage in a flurry of deliciously colourful selfishness. Their pantomime exuberance makes them an instant audience favourite. A visit from their dance teacher gives scope for great comic careening; somehow their cheeky naughtiness makes them more appealing than the rather prim and perfect Cinderella.

The prince and his escort arrive to invite the household to the ball allowing more flirtatious outrageousness from the ugly sisters and coy innocence from Cinderella.

In the next scene, Cinderella is left alone, forbidden from attending the ball. Her dazzling fairy godmother arrives to offer comfort and succour. The interlude while Cinderella is led off stage (to change into her ball gown of course) is filled with a beautiful dance sequence performed by nearly the whole troupe. Three male dancers impress with their athletic prowess, leaping up to perform mid-air splits. The costumes of both male and female dancers are reminiscent of autumn leaves on fire in glowing brown and amber hues. Their dancing brings to mind flickering flames. However, while many of the individual dancers perform beautifully, they are not completely co-ordinated with each other.

Act 2 opens at the palace where the Fairy Godmother ushers Cinderella onto the stage, now changed out of her rags into a shimmering gorgeous light peach coloured dress festooned with glistening sequins. Another beautiful set emerges before us with lighting that reminds us of a theatrical Degas painting. The omnipresent clock looms large at the back of the stage, the constant reminder that Cinderella has a midnight deadline.

The wonderfully ludicrous ugly sisters are accompanied to the ball by the ginger cat now wearing her own orange tutu to join the dancing. The ugly sisters entertain us with some of the most dynamically challenging dance sequences of the show.

The prince and his escorts enter in handsome fitted velvet jackets - the escorts in black and the prince in white, each adorned with gold military style braiding. They are joined at the dance by swirling women in pink, purple and teal tulle dresses which float delicately as they pirouette.

The garishly dressed ugly sisters are so discordant in this elegant setting, you almost pity them for their clumsy lack of social graces. As they clamour for the prince’s attention, he is distracted by the vision of Cinderella. As she dances with him, she is a flurry of flashing sequins even down to her delicately decorated pointe shoes. In a solo piece the prince dances with elegant control and leaps so high that he seems to float in the air.

Of course the party has to end when the clock strikes midnight but as we know, our lovelorn prince is reunited with his beloved Cinderella when he comes in search of the lady whose foot fits the lost shoe. The final sequence of wedding scenes showcase more stunning costumes and fabulous dancing set to such a romantic score. Overall, this ballet is a gorgeous feast of colour, music and movement.
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