By: Courtney Sullivan Wu
The children, who sat on the floor, squealed with excitement amongst the whispers and chatter from the adults behind. Right as the audience couldn’t wait any longer, a girl in a green dress and moccasins walked on, broom in hand — it was Cinderella.
In October, several d.tech dancers performed in a Hip Hop rendition of the classical ballet Cinderella at Peninsula Ballet Theater in San Mateo. The performance was a collaborative effort between two local dance crews: Poise’n, whose dancers are 13-18 years old, and Tribe, whose dancers are 18 years old and up.
Hip Hop Cinderella was directed and choreographed by Stuck Sanders and Alee Martinez and partially by members of Tribe. Amongst the Poise’n dancers in the performance were d.tech students. Sophomore Anna Zigmond-Ramm danced as Cinderella’s evil stepmother, junior Tatiana Fakoukaki performed as a fairy and, along with juniors Georgina Fakoukaki, Agathe Vasseur, senior Daniellee Benfica, and former d.tech student Rachell Alvarez, as girls at the ball. The groups rehearsed for about a month to perfect their dances and develop their own charm and personality for these classic characters.
The performance was nothing like I thought it would be. I expected a full hip-hop dance performance to hip-hop music adapted and choreographed to express parts of Cinderella’s story. To my surprise, when the show started, the music swelled with a beautiful, soft classical sound. Much of the choreography blended soft, ballerina-like movements with more conventional quick, sharp hip-hop moves, giving the show a modern edge. Very little hip-hop music was incorporated, only amidst bits of breakdancing and tricks. The main focus of the performance was storytelling.The first time the performers broke out into a hip-hop routine, the music melted into an electric buzz as the fairy godmother (played by Stuck Sanders) began transforming Cinderella for the ball. Joined by two other fairies, Sanders’ dance had a haunting feel that incorporated robotic movements. The dancers’ faces remained emotionless and blank, a startling contrast to their previously animated expressions. The music quickly switched back to its classical tune as quickly as it came, and Cinderella’s transformation was completed when she was presented with her slippers.
The last notable hip-hop sequence was when Cinderella arrives at the ball. Everyone was frozen mid-action except for Cinderella and the Prince. The two backed into each other, turned around, and became immediately awestruck. Everyone onstage ran off as Cinderella and the Prince curtsied and bowed. The music changed abruptly into a slow hip-hop track. Their dance, slower and romantic, reminded me of two magnets being pulled together, slower the farther apart they were, but speeding up the closer they get to one another. The dance itself felt like time was frozen and the only people present was the two of them.
There were few moments when I was not entertained, as the characters in the performance were so thrilling to watch. Alex Cheatham, who danced as Cinderella, was extremely expressive, not just in her facial expression but also in her body language. Zigmond-Ramm portrayed Cinderella’s stepmother with an air of confidence and sass. She embodied the stepmother’s iconic love for her daughters and disdain for Cinderella. The stepsisters, who were clearly two men wearing dresses, portrayed the clueless narcissistic personalities of the sisters comedically.
The performers costumes and props added to the show greatly. Cinderella started in a simple green dress with a small apron and moccasins. After her visit by the fairy godmother, her outfit was transformed into a beautiful cerulean blue pancake tutu with a sweetheart neckline and embellishments. Cinderella’s famous glass slippers were, instead, a pair of blue glittery Converse. I would have liked to see Cinderella’s first costume more tarnished and tattered — it was too clean and its quality too similar to the stepmother’s and stepsisters’ costumes. This made it seem like Cinderella didn’t have it as bad as in the traditional fairytale, and made it harder to imagine the hardships she endured.
Overall, the performance was more than I could have hoped for. The dancers’ knowledge of technique was extensive, and their well-rehearsed performance was clearly enjoyed by the people of all ages in the audience. My only wish is that the 45 minute performance was 10 minutes longer so I could have enjoyed it that much more!