Watch our dance video Cinderella!
Cinderella is about transformation. Everything transforms in this story: Cinderella changes from a servant to a princess, her surroundings change from earthy cinders to the flat-tiled ballroom, her mother transforms from human to spirit (fairy godmother), her mice even transform into horses.
It is also a study of gendered subject positions. Cinderella, in the hands of Mother Goose and Disney, is a passive character who needs the help of fairy godmother and prince to change her fortunes. All of the women are similarly handicapped: the stepmother depends on the status of the father, the stepsisters each vie for the hand of the prince…the men, each the least developed, most wooden of the characters in the story, have the power.
Our interpretation of this myth explores these two themes. The primary transformation of the dance is through the character of Cinderella, who not only transforms social class, but gender. Malcolm Shute plays the servant Cinderella, sweeping the floor with his body, while Mary Szegda dances with the prince at the ball. Alexander Short combines the role of stepmother and fairy godmother: wielding Shute like a broom, then stuffing him into a ball gown and transparent slippers. Short then performs as the prince. Our dance takes a fluid view of gendered subject positions, observing how these roles transform as culture transforms. This references older versions of the myth in which Cinderella takes a more active role in her own destiny.
Our dance reveals the playfulness of transformation. At “The Ball,” Cinderella and her prince repeat a sequence of ballroom-inspired steps with different objects: a flower, a high-heeled shoe. With each iteration, the meaning of the steps changes, going from tug-of-war, to celebration, to foreplay.
Our interpretation also depicts the costs of transformation, how moving forward means leaving things behind: sometimes things of value. In the last section of the dance, “Scrub,” Shute embodies the positive side of hard work. He scrubs not only the floors, but himself, observing the meaningfulness of labor, the source of satisfaction that Cinderella rejects when she accepts the prince’s hand.