Monday, December 24, 2012

Cinderella - National Ballet of Japan

For Christmas Eve, Ben and I saw Cinderella performed by National Ballet of Japan. It was a magical experience, and for me a perfect way to celebrate the holiday season. Cinderella ballet carries the sentiments of the season without devoting itself to christmas like The Nutcracker. 

Of all the dance companies I have seen, the National Ballet of Japan is the most suited to a Christmas Celebration. Throughout the entire performance there was an air of comedy. Cinderella's stepsisters (Yamamoto Ryuji, and Takahashi Kazuki), and the Jester (Yahata Akimitsu) were written a comedic parts, and were masterfully performed  The stepsisters were spot on in their roles as blundering, naive fools. Unlike some dancers who cannot give up grace for character, these girls swayed, crashed, and blundered so amusingly that it gave what could have been stuffy choreography a joyful and amusing edge.
Jester (Fukuda Keigo) Photographer: Seto Hidemi

The companies style had a constant undertone of comedy, which did not detract from more serious scenes, but gave their company a personality, and ballet viewers a reason to choose this particular group for a performance. I would not be interested in seeing any of Stravinsky's works performed by the Tokyo ballet, but more joyful works would be phenomenal.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ballet, but was frankly disappointed by Ms. Ono Ayako who played the role of Cinderella. Her dancing was perfect, and I never once detected a mistake, but she absolutely and completely lacked emotion. Her performance was completely dry, and unfortunately the accompanying orchestra was completely forgettable, so her solo performances were somewhat tedious. Either the role of Cinderella or the orchestra could have easily been filled by well programmed robots.
Cinderella (Nagata Kayo) and Prince (Fukuoka Yudai) Photographer: Seto Hidemi

While I was disappointed int the pit's performance as well as the Cinderella's, my takeaway from the performance is quite positive. Japanese dancers are not as svelte as dancers from many other nationalities  which gives them a more youthful, and healthy appearance. Their physical appearance matched with their incredible gift for comedy in Ballet gave the Tokyo Ballet an interesting and refreshing performance style. The spring fairies first solo performance was everything I could have dreamed of. Ms. Soutome Haruka was bubbling, adorable, yet elegant, she embodied the feeling of spring. Yahata Akimitsu, the jester could not have been cast better, physically he was particularly small for a male dancer, he lacked some of the muscle definition of many of the other males, but the way he could bounce about the stage was sensational. He was not only an incredible dancer, he was a wonderful actor. The jester tied the whole performance together, he was a joy to watch.

So many ballets have a prince in them, but none have ever been played so convincingly as by Mr. Fukuoka Yudai. Not only was he a marvel of human architecture, his presence was commanding  and stoic,  from his first moment on stage, you bought that he was the prince. He was unforgettable as a solo dancer, and as a supportive dancer to his female counterparts. Every moment he occupied the stage he added to its atmosphere. He embodied the prince in love so well, that the cold and unreciprocated emotions from the princess made you take pity on him.

A Christmas Eve performance of Cinderella was the perfect way for me to spend my day. I had such a wonderful time, and was so happy to be at the ballet. I love ballet, and am excited for my next chance to go. Japan has something to offer in the world of Ballet, and I really enjoy their joyful and comedic spirit.

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