The Arrival of a Canadian Prince Charming

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The New York Sun

Guillaume Cote danced Prince Charming in James Kudelka’s “Cinderella” when the National Ballet of Canada gave the work its premiere in 2004. On Tuesday night, he made the first of three guest appearances with American Ballet Theatre, repeating the role that he created.

I had heard good things about Mr. Cote but had never seen him dance, and he certainly lived up to advance reports. His line, style, and technique are 24-karat. He projected aristocratic reserve without seeming bloodless or pompous amid the operetta flavor of the production. He matched his resources to taste: He showed off his extension by sometimes taking a rather high arabesque but without seeming excessively feminine or rubbery.

Mr. Kudelka crams both the Act II and Act III adagios with tricky partnering maneuvers.Though a couple of partnering clinches were strained on Tuesday night, Mr. Cote impressed with his gift for imbuing every partnering passage with a dance impetus so they never seemed like hydraulics. He has not only an elegant port de bras but an expressive understanding of gesture, demonstrated most of all in the ballet’s final exchange, when the Prince rebukes the ubiquitous photographer who has tailed the principal characters throughout the ballet. Mr. Cote’s gesture was an appeal for privacy as much as a fiat of dismissal.

Mr. Cote’s Cinderella was Xiomara Reyes, making her debut in this production. Whereas Julie Kent and Gillian Murphy, the first two ABT ballerinas to dance the lead, are tall and imposing, Ms. Reyes is tiny, and so she personifies a more physically orthodox representation of Cinderella’s waif pathos.There is a certain rag-doll eccentricity to Mr. Kudelka’s solo choreography for Cinderella, and Ms. Reyes was able to convey this more easily than could the taller ballerinas.

Ms. Reyes elicited instantaneous sympathy from the audience without seeming to petition it. At moments during their performances, Ms. Kent and Ms. Murphy resorted to sobbing, which is probably what Mr. Kudelka directed them to do but is not justified by the diffuse picture of Cinderella and her plight that he has constructed. Rather than sob, Ms. Reyes held her head in her hands dejectedly, which seemed a more logical emotional barometer. In Act III, she gave her leaps and fouettes a fiery intensity that conveyed Cinderella’s morn ing-after frustration at finding herself once again a scullery drudge.

A period pastiche like Mr. Kudelka’s production achieves a measure of poetic poignancy when it not only re-creates a former era but in some way comments on the process and evolution of time itself. Time, memory, and mutability were addressed when Georgina Parkinson as the Fairy Godmother made her first visit to Cinderella’s home, her real identity unknown to the urchin. Amid the Art Deco costuming of the entire cast by designer David Boechler, the Fairy Godmother is anachronistically costumed in the earlier Edwardian era, thus making her seem either indigent or socially marginal in a manner that points up the generosity that Cinderella extends to her. Ms. Parkinson presented a picture of a woman weary in spirit and body, gratefully accepting a cup of tea from Cinderella.

Similarly, Veronika Part as Twig achieved an uncanny resonance by channeling the ghost of a once-celebrated but now long-forgotten showgirl in her sashaying solo. Marian Butler as Petal gave the solo performed to Prokofiev’s “Summer” a shading of indolence and “delicious melancholy” that did justice to Prokofiev’s somber dissonance. Together with Misty Copeland as Blossom and Stella Abrera as Moss, the four fairies drove the waltz macabre that ends Act I, dancing behind Ms. Reyes and propelling her toward her destiny with thrilling propulsion.

American Ballet Theatre’s Metropolitan Opera season runs until July 15 (Lincoln Center, 212-362-6000).

The New York Sun

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