These are happy times at the Lexington Ballet, and not just because the troupe is rehearsing a new rendering of Cinderella for this weekend. After a difficult winter spent recovering from financial hardship, spring is definitely in the air for Luis Dominguez and his professional company.
The first hint that things are looking up reaches the sidewalks around ArtsPlace, where the company is based. Beneath the budding trees, one can hear the sounds of Sergei Prokofiev's score to the ballet floating out the open windows of the rehearsal hall. In the middle of downtown Lexington, the fragrance of spring blows into the room, replacing the smells of rosin and liniment often associated with ballet rehearsals. As the company gathers to talk about the production, the fresh air seems to lift everyone's spirits.
"This is a new way to look at Cinderella," says Anna Craig, who danced the role of Clara in this season's The Nutcracker. "There are new characters, ... lots of comedy."
Among the characters unfamiliar to audiences who know only the Disney version of the story are a pair of fairies played by Lauren Tenney and Megan Coleman. "We do a lot of dancing," Tenney says. The fairies are a continuing presence as they guide Cinderella, danced by Brittany Butler, as she journeys from household slave to enchanted princess.
Everyone agrees that creating this new production has been fun.
Dominguez "is so easy to work with. He's very down to earth," Butler says. Unlike other, more tyrannical choreographers she says she has known, the man affectionately known to his company as "Mr. D" really wants to help, she says.
Dominquez describes this almost fatherly relationship as "a mantle you don't choose, but one you accept. ... You're passing on the traditions to the next generation of artists."
The role of Prince Charming will be played by an artist familiar to Lexington Ballet fans. Evan Pitts is the only man in the company and has consequently been busy this season. He looks a little tired, and one can't help but wonder how he keeps going.
"Luiz really helps me to stay inspired, but I've had to motivate myself a lot," he says. "When you're coming up as a dancer, you're used to being around mostly girls. ... The thing I miss the most is having another male around to challenge me, to push me to do better."
Adding another male dancer or two is high on Dominguez's wish list for next season.
A special treat for Cinderella audiences will be the presence of one of Lexington's most admired and respected actresses, Susan Wigglesworth, dancing the role of the wicked stepmother. She gushes about the experience of working with the company.
"You can feel the youth and energy in the room," especially when it is filled with 30 or 40 young ballet students for the professionals to oversee and navigate around, she says.
Lexington Ballet veteran Ayko Hasebe compares this ballet to another trend in popular entertainment. "Everybody is going to see 3D movies. But a live ballet is like seeing Cinderella in 5D."
Wigglesworth, whose other vocations have included full-time wardrobe designer and onetime ballet mom, puts it another way: "There is so little beauty in young people's lives. This is a chance to sit for kids to sit for a while and experience something beautiful."
If the company manages to bring a fraction of the joy and enthusiasm from their rehearsals onto the stage, Cinderella will be as welcome as a spring breeze after a long, hard winter.