Skates fit "Cinderella" perfectly

     With a $250.000 worth of elaborate costumes and 6,000 pounds of ice, the St. Petersburg State Ballet On Ice will transform the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin into an ice-rink theater this weekend to perform composer Sergei Prokofiev's "Cinderella" on skates.
     "I was awed the first time I saw them," said Blythe Rainey-Cuyler, Hemmens' manager, who introduced the touring company to Elgin with the 1995 performance of "Sleeping Beauty".
     "It's quite amazing, because the skaters can do these leaps in these magnificentt costumes," she added. "It's like you're watching a ballet.... They're so graceful."
     A Russian crew will arrive in Elgin Friday to begin work on the ice rink.
     With interpreters at their side, the crew will be assisted by the Hemmens' maintenance staff, which will cart in loads of ice cubes that are placed over plastic sheets and mats that carpet the stage.
     Freon and compressors will keep the rink cool while water is added to smooth out the ice. Within 24 hours, the ice rink will be ready. Behind the back curtain, padding is placed on the walls to protect the ice dancers when they skate off stage.
     Backdrops are used to depict various scenes, such as the grand ball. The show runs 90 minutes with one intermission. After the production, the ice is chopped up and dumped outside behind the building.
     "A lot of people cannot imagine how it can be done on stage," said Rainey-Cuyler. We get people from the dance community because they know the ballet and they're very curious to see it performed on skates," she said."
     With their training rooted in the tradition of the Kirov Ballet in Russia, 35 skaters translate the ballet onto ice. All of the performers are former national champion skaters. Their choreographer is Konstantin Rassadin, a formal principal dancer with the Kirov Ballet whose resume includes performing with ballet legends including Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
     "This is not comic strips on ice," said Carol Bresner, executive producer of the Park Avenue Theatrical Group in New York, which promotes the show in the Unites States. "The art is taken very seriously. When [Rassadin] is translating the ballet to ice, he tries as closely as he can to come to the original feel of the choreography in the ballet."
     This will be the company's third appearance at the Hemmens after a two-year absence. The show will take place 8 p.m. Saturday at the Hemmens, 150 Dexter Ct., Elgin.

     Krystyna Slivinski
     Special to the Tribune

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