“There’s something that just feels right about the Cinderella story,” says Hannah Bontrager, choreographer and executive director of Ballet Fantastique. “This person has a gut feeling, against all odds, that she is meant for something greater,” Bontrager says. “Everyone can relate to that.”
Audiences will have an opportunity to see Ballet Fantastique’s new spin on the classic tale when BFan presents Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet May 8-10.
Set in the 1960s, this Cinderella is anything but stuffy.
“I went to prom in the 1960s — this is my music,” says Donna Bontrager, a choreographer and BFan’s artistic director. “Growing up, we really did the Twist and the Mashed Potato. I knew I wanted them to inform the choreography.”
The two Bontragers have developed a movement vernacular that sways easily between popular dance styles and more classical forms. The pair has set its ballet to the toe-tapping tunes of the early ’60, played live by Shelley & Cal and the Agents of Unity band.
“When we first premiered this original ballet in 2012, our concept was met with a lot of wide eyes and raised eyebrows,” Hannah Bontrager says. “Even Shelley [James] and Cal [Coleman] weren’t sure if we could pull it off at first! But people tell us that it just works.”
Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet has since become a seminal work in BFan’s repertoire, helping to define and establish the company’s unique style of accessible, collaborative dance theater.
“In the past three years, we’ve actually seen more dance companies across the country telling new stories and even branding their work a ‘rock opera ballet,’” Donna Bontrager says. “We don’t think they’re copying us, but it is pretty exhilarating to have been ahead of this trend.”
BFan often utilizes a narrator to carry the story along, and this time it’s the irrepressible Fred Crafts of Radio Redux, playing the role of a retro radio DJ who adds humor and pep.
“Our Cinderella starts in silence, before stepsister Drizz turns on the radio,” Donna Bontrager says. “Essentially, we’re all hearing the live radio broadcast together. You know that feeling you have when you listen to the radio and the song just perfectly sums up what’s going on in your life?”
Sixties music provides a hook, but it’s the classic story that carries the choreography forward.
“Cinderella is a story about a woman breaking free of her confines, leaving the housework at home and realizing that she could find an identity for herself outside of the kitchen,” Hannah Bontrager says. “Our Cinderella is not the only woman who did that in the ’60s. The original Cinderella essentially burns her tattered cinder clothes. If she had done that 100 years later, it would have been her bra.”
Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet runs 7:30 pm Friday and Saturday, May 8-9, and 2:30 pm Sunday, May 10, at the Hult Center’s Soreng Theater; $29-$49, college and youth discounts available. Tickets at hultcenter.org or 697-5000.