Dancers Matthew Cunningham and Adam Boreland take on the Stepsisters in Orlando Ballet’s ‘Cinderella’

By : Jeremy Williams
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Dancer Adam Boreland knew that he and fellow dancer Matthew Cunningham were going to play the Stepsisters in Orlando Ballet’s performance of “Cinderella” before they were even cast.

“I had a dream a week before they even asked us that I was going to play one of the Stepsisters along with Matt,” Boreland says, “and I went up to him the next day and told him about the dream, so when they told us we had the parts we were like let’s do this. By that point we were already discussing how we would approach the roles and I had worked my excitement up.”

Casting men to play the Stepsisters is a tradition with Frederick Ashton’s version of “Cinderella.” Ashton first choreographed the ballet in London in 1948 with a score by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. While some interpretations of the Stepsisters have been to play them mean, Boreland and Cunningham will have less of an edge to their characters.

“I think because the roles are typically cast with male dancers they are often played as wicked or nasty, but we want it to be a little bit more playful in this one,” Boreland says.

“They like to tease her rather than be spiteful with her,” Cunningham adds. “There’s very few moments where they’re very straight up mean to her. The poor dad though.”

Ashton’s version of “Cinderella” has several differences from the Disney version most people are familiar with. One difference is that Cinderella’s father is still alive, and played by the Director of the Orlando Ballet School, Phillip Broomhead.

“The Stepsisters aren’t that bad to Cinderella but they are so bratty to the father,” Cunningham admits. Some other notable differences include scenes involving seasonal fairies, a jester and a dance that involves the Stepsisters and a pair of the Prince’s palace buddies.

“As the Stepsisters we are still trying to win the Prince at the ball but his friends are there and they are our backups if that falls through,” Cunningham says.

“They’re our plan B,” adds Boreland, “and our dance with them is hilarious. They’re lifting us, we’re lifting them and I have heels on and then I have a big wig. I’m going to be like seven feet tall.”

The Stepsisters are a huge part of the comic relief in “Cinderella,” but that doesn’t mean you won’t see top-notch dancing from these professionals.

“They’ve put some real technical steps in there that both of us do so that we’re not just a hot mess,” Boreland says. “The dances are crazy, we are in clunky heels and big wigs. We have pantaloons the whole show. The choreography is very demanding and it is fast, and if we don’t hit those marks and hit those beats then it won’t be funny.”

The costumes and the dancing aren’t the only things the Stepsisters are putting on display. Cunningham will also be doing the stage makeup for the characters.

“I have a drag persona and her name is Amanda Rydon,” Cunningham says. “I don’t really perform, mostly because I don’t have time. With ballet it’s not just a job it’s a whole lifestyle and it’s the same with drag, it’s very much a lifestyle as well, so when I had the opportunity to merge both art forms together I jumped at it.”

While past shows have described the characters as “the ugly Stepsisters,” Cunningham wants to add some beauty and glamour to these ladies.

“I don’t want to outshine a certain lead character,” he says with a laugh. “[Adam’s] more butch so I try to make him look as feminine as possible but it’s okay if the makeup isn’t perfect because it lends itself to his character. I’m much more meticulous on how I look but I still maintain that angular appearance. The important thing is keeping the makeup colors aligned with the costumes.”

Something else Cunningham plans to do is have a different look for each show, and that is something both of them will do with each of their characters, add something new and different for each performance.

“It’ll be the same choreography but each show will have something tweaked a little bit here and there with our characters,” Boreland says. “This is a dream role in the sense that they give us so much opportunity to do what we want.”

Boreland — who is originally from New Port Richey, Florida — and Cunningham — born in Pleasant View, Utah — are both in their fourth season with the Orlando Ballet.

“This company as a whole, we’re all very much family,” Cunningham says. “We all feed off of each other and are supportive with each other.”

One of those fellow dancers they have a familial bond with is Anamarie McGinn, who will play the Stepmother.

“When you put us three together the camaraderie is already there,” Boreland says with excitement. “Before we even started the choreography, the friendship and the relationship is there. We love working with her.”

Orlando Ballet’s “Cinderella” has two female dancers playing the titular princess and two male dancers portraying the Prince in the various performances of the show. Cinderella is played by Kate-Lynn Robichaux and Hitomi Nakamura and the Prince will be played by Thomas Holdsworth and Andre Gallon.

“I think it is amazing too that the leads are shared between different races and ethnicities, and we don’t mind if people think we have been typecast because we are more flamboyant,” Boreland says. “The more people who feel different have the chance to see themselves represented on stage the better the opportunity that they may say to themselves ‘If they’re up there then I can be too, that can be me on that stage someday.’”

Orlando Ballet’s “Cinderella” will feature live music performed by the Orlando Philharmonic and will play five shows at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando Feb. 14-16. Look for special Valentine’s Day-themed makeup from Cunningham at the Feb. 14 show. On Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. the Orlando Ballet will perform a special family show. The one-hour condensed version will still feature all the most memorable moments from the classic tale and will be fun for families of all ages.

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