Steps come first for stepsisters

Published: Sunday, Feb. 10 2008 12:21 a.m. MST

Principal dancer Hua Zhuang and soloist Katherine Lawrence in Ben Stevenson's "Cinderella."

Quinn Farley

What is it about "Cinderella," a fairy tale classic has been made into musicals, ballet, TV specials, movies and storybooks?

Is it the universal dream that a handsome prince will come and rescue the downtrodden beauty? Or is it the story of the prince who searches to find his true love?

Regardless, "Cinderella" is a story that people have told and retold throughout the ages. And Ballet West will bring back Ben Stevenson's interpretation to the Capitol Theatre in time for Valentine's Day.

And while the love story between the prince and Cinderella is the focal point, the subplot of the conniving stepmother trying to get one of the stepsisters to marry the prince is both humorous and heartbreaking.

There are six dancers taking on the stepsisters' roles — Jeff F. Herbig, Nicholas Scott, Christopher Ruud, Jason Linsley, Michael Bearden and John Frazer.

Herbig and Scott spoke with the Deseret Morning News about the characters, the ballet, humor, pathos and timing.

Both dancers said the other cast members impact how they perform the stepsisters. But they approach them in different ways.

"I'm dancing the bossy stepsister," Scott said. "My personality is just the opposite. So, the character is a departure for me. However, I have performed the character a few times. The last time was with Ballet West when we did it four years ago. And I was familiar with the role because I was in the Norwegian National Ballet when we did the ballet there.

"I find, however, the main challenge is having a man perform a woman," Scott said. "And I find the key is not so much me finding the character, but me sitting down with the other stepsister dancers and working out what the relationship is. That's the catalyst for me."

Also, it depends on who is performing Cinderella, he said.

"We sit down and talk about every scene," he said. "And while there is a lot of humor, there is also the fact that the character is mean. It's like I try to make the audience love me when I'm making a fool of myself."

Herbig watches a lot of classic slapstick to prepare for his version of the timid stepsister.

"I find myself watching a lot of Lucille Ball and Harpo Marx," Herbig said. "But the other day I found myself doing Stuart from 'Mad TV."'

Still, Herbig, like Scott, said the choreography always comes first.

"I get the steps down and then see if I can find a character that's true to what I want to do," he said. "When I do the stepsister, I find the honesty of the character."

To find the character, Herbig lets the other sister find herself, first.

"Jason and I have talked a bit about the roles, but with Michael it's a little different," Herbig said. "Michael has a lot on his plate, because he is dancing the stepsister one night and the prince the next. So, I make sure he is comfortable with his role, and then I build my character from that."

There is a balancing act between developing the character and going too far, both Scott and Herbig said.

"Ben's choreography is perfectly timed with the music," Scott said. "I mean I could do goofy steps and fall on my face on stage, but if it's done off count, the impact isn't there. Timing is important, and we need to reel it in when it interferes with the integrity of the ballet."

"The role of a stepsister is not a corps role but a soloist," Herbig said. "And if you slip up a bit, no one is really going to notice. But we still need to make sure the character adds to the scene, rather than eat it up.

"So, I do experiment with ideas. If I do go too far, I get memos. During those times, I try something else. But Ben is a great story teller and has great character development. So, while there is a little room to put my own personality in my role, I know that any dancer in a Ben Stevenson ballet just needs to bring in the talent, but not fill in the gaps."

If you go ...

What: "Cinderella," Ballet West

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South

When: Thursday through Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m.

How much: $17-$65

Phone: 355-2787, 888-451-2787

Web: www.arttix.org


E-mail: scott@desnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS