Hallberg and Scott bring Ratmansky’s Cinderella to new heights at the Sydney Opera House

Prince Siegfried, Prince Desire, the Nutcracker Prince, Prince Charming and the Prince of the Pagodas.

Princes strut through the palaces, ballrooms and forests of classical ballet along with their aristocratic cousins, Albrecht, the son of a duke, and Romeo, the son of Lord Montague.

It’s much harder, though, to discover a dancer who can portray a prince in all his aspects – demeanor, style, confidence, physique and stagecraft.

But we certainly know one when we see one.

And David Hallberg is one of them.

His rehearsal time as Prince Charming, partnering the Australian Ballet principal, Amber Scott, as Cinderella was brief.

But the rapport between them was satisfyingly clear last Saturday night when the couple danced together in the last of Hallberg’s three performances as a guest in Alexei Ratmansky’s production for the Australian Ballet in Sydney.

Hallberg was a prince transfixed by his love of Cinderella, focusing intently on Scott, the mysterious ballroom guest in a white and gold gown.

But when Ratmansky’s choreography allowed him the chance, Hallberg launched into a display of brilliantly executed beats, jumps and sustained turns so well that we yearned to see him covering a stage as large as the Bolshoi Theatre (where he is a principal artist) rather than the confined space of the Joan Sutherland Theatre in the Sydney Opera House.

The set, designed earlier this year for the stage of the State Theatre at the Arts Centre in Melbourne, had to undergo major shrinkage in both detail and size for the smaller Sydney space.

Hallberg’s partnering and solos looked effortless despite Ratmansky’s complex patterns and styles that blend classical ballet with social dance, show biz moments with Russian character dance references, all peppered with a touch of camp that reflects the 1930s (choo-choo train movements, hands placed in a mannered way on shoulders or held in a romantic position, criss-crossed over the chest).

Amber Scott more than rose to the occasion. Her loveable Cinderella was poignant as she grieved the loss of her mother but she showed enough spirit to triumph over her bleak circumstances in the grip of her bitchy stepsisters and stepmother.

The comic yet technically demanding choreography for the Stepsisters, Ingrid Gow and Halaina Hills, and Stepmother, Amy Harris, was even more in evidence than it was at the premiere of the production in Melbourne last September.

Frank Leo, masterfully made up, was both a wise Shakespearean Fool and a bumbling sidekick in the role of the Footman to the Prince, while Ben Davis as the Dance Teacher made the most of every element of the witty choreography (ballet jokes combined with pratfalls) as he coached the hopelessly incompetent Stepmother and Stepsisters, and a second viewing of the ballet revealed more of the vanity of the tuxedo-clad ballroom guests in a clearly corrupt court.

Hallberg, soon to guest with the Paris Opera Ballet as the Prince in Nureyev’s Sleeping Beauty, ended his last guest performance with the Australian Ballet in a highly theatrical curtain call.

He knelt before his ballerina, kissed her hands, kissed the hands of the conductor, Nicolette Fraillon, and orchestrated a curtain call “peel” in which he and Scott each moved to one side of the stage and applauded the company.

Entrenched hierarchy in ballet is sometimes questioned but an audience still hankers for this kind of glamour from ballet stars, the kind that Hallberg understands so well.

4 Comments

  1. Anna Campbell
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    We should have rained flowers on them. I kept wanting to, especially at the “peel” :)

  2. valerie
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    I agree, Anna. Where were the flowers on Saturday night and why can’t we do as they do at Covent Garden and have a flower throw when a principal dancer gives his/her last performance?

  3. Robert Woodley
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    Dear Valerie,
    Yes the stage is problematic. I saw Adam Bull and Liana Jones on Saturday and although they were wonderful, even managing to silence all the kiddies, he especially is too constrained by the stage, especially in the 10 Dali/Dalek clocks scene.
    Sydney needs a large ballet and opera stage desperately. The Opera House was packed in all theatres on Saturday and thousands of tourists. It is making a fortune so we should have that theatre for ballet and big opera.
    Robert

  4. valerie
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    Robert, it’s just so depressing that this problem never goes away. I don’t think the new plan for the public to buy a tile on the roof of the House is not going to raise enough money for the many millions needed.

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David Hallberg dressed as Prince Charming in Ratmansky's Cinderella, Australian Ballet, photo © Wendell Teodoro

David Hallberg dressed as Prince Charming in Ratmansky’s Cinderella, Australian Ballet, photo © Wendell Teodoro

Amber Scott, Cinderella, Australian Ballet, photo © Lynette Wills

Amber Scott, Cinderella, Australian Ballet, photo © Lynette Wills

Amber Scott, Cinderella, Australian Ballet, photo © Lynette Wills

Amber Scott, Cinderella, Australian Ballet, photo © Lynette Wills