For Karen Gibbons-Brown, the Fort Wayne Ballet’s production of “Cinderella” this weekend has special appeal on a variety of levels.
First, the ballet will perform a version of “Cinderella” passed on to her as a teen by her ballet teacher at Columbia City Ballet in Columbia, S.C.
Ballets are passed from generation to generation, not written down, said Gibbons-Brown, now the Fort Wayne Ballet’s executive and artistic director.
Her teacher saw this version of “Cinderella” when given permission to visit a ballet training program in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Gibbons-Brown learned the ballet later while a student of the teacher.
The production mostly follows the traditional telling of the fairy tale, with a young woman toiling in service to her stepmother and stepsisters. Then her fairy godmother and the Four Seasons Fairies magically help her dress up and attend a royal ball, where the prince falls in love with her. She has to leave suddenly before the magic wears off, and the prince then launches a search to find her.
One of the aspects Gibbons-Brown enjoys about this ballet is the stepmother and stepsisters are not ugly or evil. They are fairly nice, but very “unrefined,” a quality that is the source of much of the humor in the production.
Unlike theater and movie presentations of “Cinderella,” however, ballet performers don’t do any speaking, Gibbons-Brown said. Audiences won’t have any problem following the story, she assures.
“I’ve always learned from my years in dance, you speak with the body — your legs and feet, but also with your hands and face,” she said. Costumes also help tell the tale.
She and the dancers also look forward to the chance to perform with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. The Phil will provide the music for all four performances, one Friday night, a matinee and evening show Saturday and a matinee performance Sunday. All of the performances take place at the Arts United Center.
“You can feel it within your body,” Gibbons-Brown said of live music.
Many ballet companies now must perform to recorded music, she noted, so Fort Wayne Ballet is grateful it still can collaborate with the Phil on productions.