The Utah Regional Ballet adds a touch of grace to the tender fairy tale of a scullery maid meeting her handsome prince at a royal ball, with four performances tonight through Saturday at the SCERA Center for the Arts.
Student artists will perform “Cinderella,” alongside the URB in its final production for this season, which is part of the Children’s Performing Arts Series. High school-age dancers and younger auditioned for select character roles, which URB Artistic Director Jacqueline Colledge said is one of the purposes of the annual arts partnership.
“It brings the arts closer to the children. They can interact more and they seem to understand more and feel a part of it,” Colledge said.
The youth art series allows aspiring performers to engage with professional artists first-hand and gain valuable stage experience. Students observe how they work, and can see the discipline needed to constantly refine even a single dance step.
“It can be a frightening thing to audition, so it helps to prepare them at young ages,” Colledge said. “Especially if they decide to pursue dance professionally.”
Colledge also choreographed the show and compiled the accompanying music from overtures composed by Gioachino Antonio Rossini. With story ballets, Colledge said, the music plays a key role in moving the plot forward. In place of actual dialogue, pantomime sequences are used to help tell the story.
“I can do tons of choreography to dance steps, but when you have to have mime parts where they ask each other questions without saying a word, the music has to sound like what those questions and answers are, and so that was a challenge,” Colledge said. “It works really well with the Rossini music.”
In this three-act play, Cinderella is co-played by URB members Kaitlyn Potts and Rachelle Brooks. The first act opens with the wicked stepmother and her two daughters ridiculing Cinderella. By the end of the segment, everyone is getting ready for the royal ball, except Cinderella, who isn't allowed to go.
Just before the act ends, a Court of Fairies from the north, south, east and west enter with the fairy godmother and present Cinderella with her iconic gown and the glass slippers she wears to the ball.
“Everyone knows the story,” Potts said. “So it can bring in people who maybe like going to the ballet or maybe have never been, and they can all understand the story and enjoy it.”
URB has performed Colledge’s rendition of “Cinderella” in the past, and she said the scene that garners the most reaction is at the end of the first act where Cinderella actually flies away in a magic pumpkin carriage. Colledge points out how Cinderella never leaves the stage during her transformation from wearing rags, to wearing her ball gown.
Enter, the Handsome Prince. The second act reveals the ballroom where the audience first sees the prince, played by 25-year-old Tyler Burkett. As one of URB’s principal dancers, Burkett is now in his third season in the company and studies dance at Utah Valley University. UVU partners with the ballet company to offer course credit for participating.
"We have so many talented dancers that I feel like a lot of the valley doesn’t even see or know exists,” Burkett said. “It would be awesome to get more people to come in and see what a great ballet company they have here in Utah County."
The Orem resident describes his method of dancing as “organic,” and said the easiest way for him to get into character is to not mind his mistakes and to keep moving.
“Especially in performance, it's just time to move on because it's just so in the moment and in the now, that if it’s not happening in the now, then it's not going to happen right,” Burkett said.
The Court Jester also appears in the second act, played by Orem resident Marisa Adams. After learning a short dance number taught by URB coaches, Adams auditioned for the role and won a spot on the playbill. One of her favorite scenes, the 10-year-old said, is seeing the wicked stepsisters at the ball, who are played by two rather tall men, Ryan and Paul Richardson.
“It is hilarious. They walk on and be all pretty-like and start begging the prince to marry them, and the prince is like, ‘No way.’ It’s pretty funny,” Adams said.
Nearing the end of the second act, the audience will be rolling with laughter from the comedic fruits of the awkward "sisters."
“They're great actors, they're not dancers,” Colledge said. “They're wonderful actors and huge men, and so it makes such a contrast with my tiny ballerina.”
The director said the relationships these performers have off-stage are just as critical as those represented on-stage. Ballet artists often execute highly technical dance sequences without saying a word to each other, emphasizing that relationships matter in creating an authentic connection with viewers.
“I think that trust is what unites them so that they can take that to the stage and then become the characters that they are,” Colledge said.