News: Maia Makhateli - on dancing Cinderella

Thursday 2 July 2015 by Graham Watts

Dutch National Ballet principal Maia Makhateli  in 'Cinderella'. Photo: Angela Sterling

Christopher Wheeldon’s magical production of Cinderella, which was made jointly for San Francisco Ballet and Dutch National Ballet, will have its UK premiere at the London Coliseum next week (Wed 8 – Sat 11 July). The Georgian-born ballerina, Maia Makhateli will perform the title role twice in London (in rotation with Anna Tsygankova & Igone de Jong). Graham Watts spoke to her about the ballet…

I believe this production of Cinderella has had a special impact on your life?
Yes, that’s true! It was while performing in Chris’s ballet that Artur and I started dating! [Artur Shesterikov is also a Dutch National Ballet Principal and he performed the role of Prince Guillaume alongside Maia’s Cinderella during the first run of the ballet in Amsterdam].

Had you ever danced as Cinderella before Christopher Wheeldon’s production? I did a different Cinderella when I was in the corps de ballet, which was choreographed by Martin Freedman. It was a much more traditional interpretation than Chris’s production. So, it wasn’t completely new to me because I had done the role. But, Chris’s Cinderella is so different. It’s like a 21st Century version. I really like it.

Why do you like it so much?
It is very different. It gave me an opportunity to grow as a dancer and to discover my artistic qualities.

Say a bit more about how it is different…
First of all, the production is not a traditional view of Cinderella. There’s no a Fairy Godmother, for example. Instead, Cinderella is followed by four fates [played by male dancers] who are leading her through the whole journey, guiding her to true love and a happy ending. Also, the dancing is different. Chris has his own very specific style and he really knows what he wants from his dancers. It looks amazing, I must say.
As far as Cinderella is concerned, you have to take the role and make it your own. There are several casts but if Chris changed something for someone, it didn’t mean that I had to do the same. Because if he worked on me and I did something slightly different, he would say “I like that on you, keep it that way”.

So each Cinderella will be unique?
Yes, each of us could put our mark on the role. Of course, the choreography has to be the way Chris made it, but he is very generous. He was very happy to let each of us play with the role and be ourselves in it.

There is much more of a role for the prince in Wheeldon’s interpretation compared to say Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella for The Royal Ballet. Does this mean less stage time for Cinderella?
All the characters in this Cinderella have a lot of dancing. So, for example there is Benjamin, the Prince’s friend, who is a featured dancer; and the stepmother and stepsisters are also dancing roles on pointe. They are very strong characters and different from the traditional interpretations to some extent.
And, yes, the prince is on stage quite a lot. But that doesn’t take anything away from Cinderella or any of the other characters.

It sounds as if there is more depth to this story, as told by Wheeldon?
This production is not just about Cinderella and the Prince. You see a lot. Actually, I think it is not enough to watch Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella once. You have to see it at least a couple of times so that you can catch everything because there are so many interesting things happening on the stage.

What is the most special moment for you, dancing the role of Cinderella?
There are lots of special moments. Of course, I love the ballroom pas de deux because Prokofiev’s music is so beautiful there. Well, actually the same is true of the other pas de deux, which I love equally!
I have quite a few moments that I always look forward to. The atmosphere on stage during the ballroom scene is very stylised and warm and then the scene where I go to the ball in the carriage is absolutely beautiful.

What else should the audience be looking for?
The visual effects in this ballet are especially impressive. It takes you to a different level. There is a tree that moves and the carriage is absolutely amazing. The way it is done, it is really another level of design. That’s what I mean by a 21st century Cinderella. It really is something very different.

I really think that this production is perfect not only for children, but also for adults because although Christopher Wheeldon is very serious and really intelligent with his work, he also has such a funny sense of humour and you can really feel it in this ballet. It’s really such an interesting and different interpretation of Cinderella.

Your brother David Makhateli, was a Royal Ballet Principal so had a significant part of his career in London. Is coming here special to you as well?
Yes, it is – and I’m really excited because I already danced the Cinderella pas de deux at a gala in the Coliseum earlier this year and Londoners seemed to love it.
When Cinderella came back, last December, I danced with a different partner and so I’m looking forward to dance the role with Artur once again.

Dutch National Ballet – Cinderella
London Coliseum, 8 – 11 July 2015

Principal casting:
Anna Tsygankova & Matthew Golding (Wed, Fri, Sat at 7.30pm)
Igone de Jong & Jozef Varga (Thu, 2pm)
Maia Mahkathelli & Artur Shesterikov (Thu 7.30 & Sat 2pm)

Trailer featuring Anna Tsygankova & Matthew Golding in the lead roles:

Graham Watts is a freelance dance writer and critic. He is a regular contributor to Dancing Times and also writes for, and other magazines and websites in Europe, Japan and the USA. He is chairman of the dance section of the Critics’ Circle in the UK and of the National Dance Awards. Twitter: @gwdancewriter

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