It was great to have the Lila Cockrell Theater essentially to ourselves on Wednesday night for the press preview dress rehearsal of Ballet San Antonio’s Cinderella. Well…Page and I, and aside from company personnel and support, a lovely group of children enjoying the ballet from The Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio. Detail: Anyone who knows me, knows that I do not pay children gratuitous compliments. These kids were very well behaved!
We were greeted upon arrival by Courtney Mauro Barker, President and CEO of the company since 2011. Understandably a little tired and a little tense. And gracious as always. Along with Artistic Director Gabriel Zertuche, this young team is making long and strong strides with this ballet company. Sir Ben Stevenson, international choreographer and ballet legend, was in town for 3 days last week working with the company to get them into fighting form for this premiere. All that is left is to fill the Lila Cockrell Theater. I say that only slightly tongue in cheek. This is a 2300 seat venue, so the company really has their work cut out for them.
I must say that the dancers have done their part. We learn that there have been a few bumps, primarily in the form of losing a valued soloist to an injury that will keep her out for about 2 months — stretching into Nutcracker season. In such a small, tight company, this is a major blow. These guys are pros. They pick up the slack and keep moving. The dress rehearsal performance was very nicely done. The company has come a long way since we last saw them in the studio back on September 25th — only two short weeks past, and many grueling hours of rehearsal later. These “kids” have made very good use of their time in the studio. First with former Houston Ballet star, Janie Parker, who did the work of setting the piece, and then Stevenson with whom I am sure they proved their worth.
I won’t review here. Without the lightning in a bottle provided by an audience, in my opinion, you don’t have a complete picture to work with. What I can tell you? Cinderella sparkled with a positively ethereal performance, her Prince Charming solidly partnering her to success. The Wicked Stepsisters were a completely horsey hoot, glorious in all their frumpily frilly ugliness.
And the Fairy Godmother? She had an icy warmth, bringing a certain tranquil magnanimity to her performance that suited the role very well. The Jester’s athletic grace and very fine character performance anchored Acts II and III, knitting together the story as Stevenson intended. All in all, the entire company did a very fine job and everyone should find this production quite enjoyable.
And this is where the art and dance lovers of San Antonio need to step up and do their job. As I write this piece, the company is onstage for their opening night. I want everyone who reads this to be a part of Ballet San Antonio’s building success story. The management of the company made a discount code available to us, available for the Friday evening performance. When you go to www.ticketmaster.com to purchase tickets, choose your desired date and be sure to enter the code PUMPKIN. There are mezzanine seats available at $10 and orchestra seats available at $20 — plus the Ticketmaster handling fee, of course. For all other remaining performances, use the code “balletsa” to receive a 20% discount off regular prices.
Ballet San Antonio will be the resident company of the new Tobin Center opening in 2014 for a reason — they are very good at what they do. I remember when Houston Ballet was a sleepy little regional ballet company in the late 1970’s. Under Ben Stevenson’s leadership, this company is today one of the foremost in the world with a $19.2 million annual budget and a $57.6 million endowment. And they had to start somewhere. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a world class ballet in San Antonio? Ballet San Antonio could be that.
They can only achieve their goals with an interested and supportive community.