When you think of Cinderella, you probably think of glass slippers. But the star of this weekend’s two-act, full ballet production of “Cinderella” by Children’s Ballet Theatre of Michigan will trade in her fancy footwear for a pair of ballet flats.
“This is a dream come true,” said Brianna Renfrew, who plays the role of Cinderella. “I’ve always wanted to be Cinderella.”
A dancer from age 3, Renfrew has been with Children’s Ballet Theatre since 2009. A senior at Okemos High School, she will graduate from both high school and the ballet program this year. “Cinderella” is her final show with the company. Renfrew identifies with some of her character’s most important traits.
“I like her attitude to everyone, the kindness and positivity,” she said. “She’s trying to follow the rules of her stepmother, trying to be kind and respectful. But once she’s able to go to the ball, she gets a new experience and sees what life could be like outside of that house.”
Over 50 members of the ballet theater — all between the ages of 8 and 18 —join Renfrew in this production. Most people are familiar with Disney’s animated version of the fairy tale, but this production differs from the popular film in many ways.
“Some characters are different from what everyone is used to,” explained Cindy Kangas, board member of the Children’s Ballet Theatre. “For example, there are different fairies for each season. There’s also a larger ball scene that’s more like a masquerade party.”
This production uses a score composed by Prokofiev, but with some slight tweaks.
“A lot of ballet companies do ‘Cinderella,’ but each creative director or choreographer uses creative license so it’s unique to each company,” Kangas said.
Creative Director Gregory M. George, who has been with the company for 16 years, has worked carefully to craft a production that is unique to the company and true to the personalities of the performers.
“He likes to feed off the personalities of the dancers,” Kangas said. “So if he’s got a shyer person, he’ll change the role a little.”
The evil stepmother is played by Katrina Granger, while the Fairy Godmother is played by Tara Fedewa. Allie Cates and Meredith Bolton play Cinderella’s stepsisters, and the Prince is played by Children’s Ballet Theatre alum Jesse Powers, who is returning to Michigan just for the role.
“That the children play most the lead characters is a testament to how strong our dancers are,” Kangas said.
In addition to several guest dancers, the company also hosts six young dancers from the Children’s Miracle Network, a nonprofit that works with children’s hospitals. The dancers are young patients from Sparrow Hospital, some of them in wheelchairs or using walkers. This is not the first time Children’s Ballet Theatre has partnered with Sparrow.
Kids who feel inspired after seeing one of Children’s Ballet Theatre shows are welcome to try out for the group. The dance company holds auditions twice a year. Many of the group’s current dancers tried out after seeing the group perform.
“To see little girls and boys watch with excitement in their faces makes me so happy,” said Renfrew.
Children’s Ballet Theatre of Michigan
7 p.m. Friday, May 6-Saturday, May 7; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 8
$15/$12 children and students
Holt High School Theatre 5885 Holt Road, Holt
(517) 482-2553, cbtdance.org