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Male Dancers Take On Stepsister Roles In 'Cinderella'

Julie Denesha

Choreographer Victoria Morgan, artistic director and CEO of the Cincinnati Ballet, based her narrative ballet, Cinderella, on the classic story by Charles Perrault, as well as drawing on her own experience dancing the title role in previous productions. The Kansas City Ballet presents the work, which opens this weekend.

One convention Morgan uses, which dates to a 1948 version of Cinderella (choreographed by Frederick Ashtonof The Royal Ballet), is casting men in the roles of the two "ugly" stepsisters.

Ryan Jolicouer-Nye and Logan Pachiarz, the stepsisters in the Kansas City Ballet's production, shared their thoughts on the experience.

How long does it take to get ready to go on stage – including costume, makeup and wigs?

Ryan: "Oh, at least 30 minutes. We sit for about 20 minutes in makeup and then another 10 for the dressers to get out costumes done up."

Logan: "I like to take my time when getting ready to perform. I also like to get ready early, so I can go over my choreography and get into the right headspace for the show. This process usually takes about an hour."

Choreographer Victoria Morgan has described the stepsisters as “in direct contrast to Cinderella; they are overgrown and clumsy.” What’s it like, with all of your training, to play a “clumsy” role?

Ryan: "It's actually very difficult. Slapstick roles always run the risk of being campy. It's very easy to step on each others jokes or go too over the top with our humor thus making the joke unclear. Though it's not something we have any training for, we certainly have to practice."

Logan: "I am a very clumsy person 'naturally,' additional training in that department is not necessary! I really enjoy playing clumsy or awkward characters on stage. There is a sentimentality to them that is very endearing.

"Playing a clumsy character role definitely has its own challenges. A performer needs the presence of mind not to lose control or react too wildly to the choreography. So it does make for a challenging transformation into becoming a stepsister. That being said, it has been an awarding experience and I know the audience will love it."

What are the most striking differences for you in playing the role of a woman – steps or mannerisms?

Ryan: "There comes a point in the second act when Logan and I have to flirt with the men in the court. It's funny because sometimes I forget what role I'm playing and will automatically start flirting with one of the ladies."

Logan: "The mannerisms have been the most difficult for me to perfect. Sometimes when I am in the moment of performing in a certain section, I find myself doing over-the-top impressions of what I 'think' is the appropriate response to another characters actions. More often than not, I crack myself up at my choices."

Morgan has also said that she “loves the slapstick.” One scene – where the Prince’s friends try to dance with the stepsisters – seems to illustrate this. Could you describe this scene – and any particular challenges?

Ryan: "Again, the quartet is very funny as long as we are clear with our jokes. It is so easy to get carried away with something like this that you almost have to do less to nail the slapstick on the head."

Logan: "In this scene we find the stepsisters flirting with the Prince's friends. Girls just wanna have fun, right? The stepsisters partner the Prince's friends while they in turn attempt to be partnered. The challenge in this scene is trying not to laugh at the hilarious expressions on Ryan's face as he dances. It really is a lot of fun."

Are there moments where it’s been difficult not to laugh?

Ryan: "There are. Believe it or not, I can't watch Logan very often because I will laugh every time. There is one moment where I am ranting and I get frozen directly facing the audience. This proved to be difficult at our First Friday performance because one chuckle from an audience member makes me laugh."

Logan: "Every single moment threatens to spill into hilarity so, yes, it is extremely hard!"

Kansas City Ballet Presents 'Cinderella,' May 9 - 18, at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo. 816-931-2232.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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