There are two “Cinderella” stories connected with the Moscow Festival Ballet’s performance Saturday as part of the Charles Vanda Master Series at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The first is, of course, the beloved fairy tale that has captivated young and old alike since the 17th century — including composer Sergei Prokofiev, who composed his rhapsodic score during World War II, a time when happy endings were in very short supply.
The second Cinderella story involves the Moscow Festival Ballet itself, founded in 1989 by Sergei Radchenko, a principal dancer with Moscow’s legendary Bolshoi Ballet, who had been with the celebrated company for 25 years.
As Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika were changing the political and social landscape of what was then the Soviet Union, Radchenko sought to bring together elements of the country’s two great ballet companies — the Bolshoi and the Kirov, based in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) — within the framework of a new, independent company.
And while “our company has evolved with new ideas and dancers,” assistant artistic director Alexander Daev says in an email, “fundamentally it has remained the same as when it was founded, which is to be a Russian classical ballet touring company.”
As such “we are large enough to put on the big productions, but small enough to make it practical to be ‘on the road,’ ” Daev says.
On this tour, that means 40 dancers performing “Cinderella” — along with such other favorites as “Sleeping Beauty,” “Swan Lake,” “Don Quixote,” “Giselle,” “Chopiniana” and “Romeo and Juliet” — for more than four months.
“(It’s) a strict daily routine,” Daev says. “We travel a lot and must stay in top shape so we can perform to our best ability every night. Our schedule is demanding. We must adjust to a new stage all the time along with a new climate and environment, but this is what we do and we are used to it.”
Such challenges come with the territory, he adds.
“For us, none of the ballets are ‘difficult,’ because it is what we do for our profession, it is our life and we love it,” says Daev, who also serves as the troupe’s ballet master. “However, they are all extremely ‘difficult’ if you put together all of the years of training and work to reach our accomplishment, which is: We make very difficult things look easy and effortless.”
Unlike some ballets, “Cinderella” doesn’t require extensive explanation.
After all, it’s “based on the fairy tale, which is universally known and loved,” Daev says, describing the tale as “a wonderful story which makes everyone feel good. It is a universal theme: Love conquers all. Everyone in the world can relate to this story.”
Saturday’s performance will feature the same choreography — by Rostislav Zakharov — that “Cinderella’s” first audiences saw at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre during its 1945 debut.
The Moscow Festival Ballet version features a recorded version of Prokofiev’s score, which Daev describes as “beautiful and very emotional,” providing lyrical accompaniment for the performers to “tell the story with their bodies through the dance.”
Saturday at UNLV, Maria Kluyeva will dance the role of Cinderella, Evgeniy Rudakov will portray Cinderella’s nasty stepmother, while Elena Khorosheva and Natalia Ivanova dance the comical roles of her stepsisters, who prove less than star pupils when a dancing master appears, before the Spring Ball, to attempt the impossible — teaching them the rudiments of dancing.
Good thing Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother (danced by Olga Gudkova) turns up, disguised as a beggar woman, to transform our heroine, enabling her to attend the Spring Ball and captivate a charming Prince (Konstantin Marikin) reluctant to choose a bride — until he catches sight of Cinderella.
Although this “Cinderella” includes many familiar elements, from her glass slippers to the magic spell that ends at midnight, it also introduces some characters who might be new to local audiences, including four fairies (danced by Eriko Noritake, Galina Ishenko, Viktoria Baldanova and Daria Lednikova) who change the seasons as they dance — and help Cinderella’s fairy godmother transform her rags into a beautiful ballgown.
Watching the beloved tale unfold “gives the audience a chance to forget their everyday lives and enjoy something that is very beautiful,” in Daev’s view — an experience that “creates lasting memories.”
And when it comes to lasting memories for the members of the Moscow Festival Ballet, Las Vegas has sparked more than a few.
“We love Las Vegas! We have been many times over the past 20 years,” he says. “We always do something fun in Las Vegas … after our performance, of course!”
In part, Southern Nevada has become a favorite tour stop because “we find the audience is always warm and enthusiastic for our performances,” Daev emails, concluding “Viva Las Vegas!”
Contact reporter Carol Cling at email@example.com or 702-383-0272.