Men go en pointe for Stanton Welch’s Cinderella

Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo: Drew Donovan

Stanton Welch’s staging of Cinderella, which Houston Ballet will perform February 23 – March 4 at Wortham Theater Center, contains several unique elements.

Many productions of Cinderella around the world feature men performing as Cinderella’s step sisters for comic effect.  One distinctive feature of Welch’s staging of Cinderella, which he created for The Australian Ballet in 1997, is that the men dancing as the sisters wear pointe shoes, executing challenging classical ballet steps.  (In other productions of Cinderella such as Frederick Ashton’s and Ben Stevenson, the men appearing as the step sisters don women’s costumes, but aren’t required to dance difficult classical choreography.)

Dancer: Jim Nowakowski; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Corps de ballet member Jim Nowakowski, who won first place in the Men’s Senior Division of the Youth American Grand Prix in 2007, shares his experience of the joys and challenges of learning the role of a Stepsister in Cinderella.

“Learning and performing role of the stepsister in Stanton Welch’s Cinderella has been such a fun and challenging experience that I don’t think I could ever forget doing.

“One of the most rewarding parts of the process is getting to say you have done a three act ballet in pointe shoes. Not many male ballet dancers can say that!

“The most challenging aspect of the whole process is tolerating the pain of the pointe work and getting through some tough choreography on pointe.

“The experience dancing en pointe is definitely bitter sweet. It’s such a great experience to have, one that most male ballet dancers will never experience. But, the pain of your toes and standing in the pointe shoe in itself for an extended amount of time can get painful. It gives you a whole new respect for the female dancers and what they have to deal with everyday.

“The men dancing the stepsisters in Cinderella started preparing in January. We have an hour and a half pointe class for us men about two times a week. Our class consists of basic pointe technique to help us understand the pointe work as well as practicing the choreography we have to perform. It is definitely a beginner pointe class.”

Oliver Halkowich, Phillip Broomhead, Steven Woodgate; Photo: Drew Donovan

Please click here to watch an interview with Jim Nowakowski.

Other male dancers learning the role of the stepsisters include soloists Oliver Halkowich, Ilya Kozadayev, and Joseph Walsh; demi soloist Peter Franc; and corps de ballet member Christopher Gray.

See them perform in Cinderella starting this Thursday, and running through Sunday, March 4 at Wortham Theater Center.

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