The Fairy Godmother is an android who packs a neon wand, but in most respects Maguy Marin’s Cendrillon for the Lyon Opera Ballet, presented at City Center in January, looks back to the avant-garde past. The multilevel Constructivist set and masked and padded Bauhaus-style dancers recall the heady days of experimentation in the arts of post-revolutionary Russia and pre-Nazi Germany. Even the roadster in which Cinderella rides to the ball conjures up a time when it was possible to believe in the machine as a force for unmitigated good. It was a period of passionate idealism, made all the more poignant for us in retrospect by the knowledge of the terrible oppression that was to quash it and so many of its true believers.

This sense of a lost world of innocence permeates Marin’s Cinderella through her use of childhood as a metaphor: the set is a doll’s house filled with...


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