Peru is not a natural home for ballet. Children are far more likely to be learning the traditional Marinera than pliés and pas de chats, and the expense attached to ballet makes it off limits for much of the population.
But Lucy Telge, driven director of the Ballet Municipal de Lima, has since 1983 been building its classical repertoire and reputation.
Those used to the bold statements of Ratmansky’s contemporary Cinderella or Matthew Bourne’s British Blitz Cinders won’t find such obvious statements of purpose in Lima Ballet’s La Cenicienta.
This is a picture-book Cinderella that sticks closely to the 1697 Charles Perrault version of the tale, from beginning to happily ever after.
We open in the house now run by Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters, as the stepsisters spat over a length of fabric. A constantly bickering trio, the step-family are momentarily united in lording over Cinders.
Additional characters are few, with focus mainly on the family and prince. It’s well done, as these main characters are neatly drawn.
Viviana Gutiérrez plays a serene Cinderella with just the right expression of retiring intelligence.
Luciana Cárdenas and Maria Casafranca are marvellously petulant sisters, squabbling with a pantomime passion only to be outdone by Livier Ramírez as their jealous mother.
Our first external character is a glitter-haired dancing master, who waves his violin bow and leaps around with rather heavier steps than one might hope for his pupils.
Cue an opportunity to show the awkwardness of the sisters compared to Cinderella’s light grace, although there are moments when the sisters’ vim overshadows the enslaved girl.
Sets are simple, with three main backdrops and a few large props onstage. This needn’t have been an obstacle, but is made so when a few key dramatic moments are lost for want of a change of lighting or perspective.
The beggar woman (who will later prove the Fairy Godmother) seems to make her way around the whole house before anyone takes fright. And Cinderella’s arrival at the ball, despite her orange carriage, is signalled by no change of lighting or atmosphere, or reason to suppose she is anything more than another punter in a pumpkin.
Things get up speed in the search for the wearer of the sparkling slipper. Prince and four stooges career between countries, effectively described by a rapid series of painted backdrops, meeting among others a racy Bavarian bartender and some charmingly wiggly nuns.
The corps de ballet, which includes students of the Lucy Telge School, dance a light transition scene as the fairies of different seasons, presided over by Solange Villacorta as an elegant Fairy Godmother.
At the height of the ball, there’s a lovely moment as midnight strikes and the bewigged attendees are parted by a swarm of little figures in black, each bearing a number of the clock and marching resolutely to mark the end of the adventure.
The Petipa version of Cinderella in 1893 marked the first arrival of the 32 fouettées en tournant on stage that would later appear as a trademark of Swan Lake.
There are no such fireworks here, but the choreography is well suited to the company. Created by Russian choreographer Boris Miagkov, it blends regular steps and turns with a smattering of lifts, classical rather than dramatic. It is Miagkov’s fourth creation for Ballet Municipal de Lima.
Telge recently told Peruvian daily El Comercio that they had seen an American Ballet Theatre Cinderella with an alcoholic stepmother and loved it, but the Lima public were for now too conservative for such innovation.
Tonight’s stepsisters suggest BML is more than ready to take on wackier character roles, but until they do we look forward to another neat retelling of a classic.