Cinderella/Mi Madre y Yo
Mothers danced in both Long Center venues on Mother's Day, but oh, what different moms
Reviewed by Jonelle Seitz, Fri., May 15, 2009
Cinderella/Mi Madre y Yo
Dell Hall/Rollins Studio Theatre in the Long Center for the Performing Arts
The most touching aspect of Mi Madre y Yo, a dance-theatre piece by Barcelona-based choreographer Sònia Gómez, was how much her mother seemed to trust her. If I asked my own mother to put on a swimsuit, dance to the Beach Boys, lip-sync to Tina Turner, and kill a chicken, all in front of an expectant audience, she would probably whack me with a wooden spoon. But septuagenarian Rosa Vicente was game for it all – well, almost. She deferred to her daughter on the splits and high kicks.
The chicken-slaughter scene was actually on video, as was the nudity (Gómez's, not her mother's). As Gómez explained onstage, "A video is more clean." When the pair danced together live, it looked at times like Vicente was trying to keep up with her daughter, who was obviously the one running the show. Other times, Gómez accosted and groped her mother, perhaps in reference to children taking over not just their mothers' lives but their bodies. (Don't worry: Vicente defended herself with the stagehands' broom.) Between dance sequences, recitation of a Bukowski poem, and a shop-class project, Gómez periodically interviewed her mother about her past, her favorite pastimes (bullfighting is up there with chicken slaughter), and men. To define herself as apart from yet a part of her mother, Gómez used a compare-and-contrast method with references to Tina Turner and Pina Bausch (the German great mother of dance theatre – YouTube her). Gómez then read her mother a letter attempting to explain her lifestyle and unconventional methods, which her mother obviously accepts and embraces. Aw. Did I mention there were homemade cookies?
The Gómez piece was performed in the Rollins Studio Theatre at the Long Center, and over in Dell Hall, Ballet Austin was dancing Cinderella, in which poor Cinderella's only compassionate mother figure is an elusive fairy godmother. Artistic Director Stephen Mills created his version of the ballet back in 1997, and instead of using the 1940s score by Sergei Prokofiev, Mills reappropriated sections of another ballet score, Alexander Glazunov's 1898 Raymonda. The Prokofiev is weighty and incorporates the darker aspects of the fairy tale, but it's also quite magical and romantic. Mills' Glazunov score is lighter and less psychological, and, well, it "belongs" to another ballet. If you're familiar with Raymonda, it might be difficult to reassociate, for example, a harp variation for a Hungarian princess with Cinderella's fairy godmother. But it worked well enough, especially as performed live by the Austin Symphony Orchestra led by Peter Bay.
Mills' Cinderella has hints of the streamlining and conciseness of some of his later work. An epic search for a foot to fit the famous slipper is represented cutely by a dozen stockinged feet, vying for attention below a partially raised scrim. The stepsisters in this version have a low profile, unlike the terribly ugly, goofy characterizations given them in most versions. With no jubilant wedding scene, the ballet ends with Cinderella and the prince alone onstage, just after they are reunited. In the performance I saw, Ashley Lynn was lovely as usual in the title role; Paul Michael Bloodgood looked princely when he was standing still but was quite shaky and tense in his turns and jumps. All grumps aside, though, Ballet Austin plans to open its next season with Mills' new rendition of The Firebird, and I'm happily optimistic.