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Fairytale ballet draws a packed house

It is a rare occasion when a ballet company hits the stage in Canberra.

But there does not seem to be a lack of interest in classical dance in the capital, as the West Australian Ballet performed its latest work Cinderella to a packed house at the Canberra Theatre on opening night.

The company of almost 30 dancers, one of the oldest in Australia, will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year.

Cinderella choreographer Jayne Smeulders said what made the company unique was its small size, but ''close-knit feel''.

It could be one of the reasons why she wasn't daunted by the thought of choreographing her first full-length ballet.

Smeulders, who started dancing aged 2, was a leading dancer at the West Australian Ballet when she was asked by the company's artistic director Ivan Cavallari to create a completely new production.


But Smeulders wasn't fazed by taking on the new role of choreographing Cinderella, which involved directing most of her colleagues.

''In fact it made it easier to work with all the dancers because I knew them and their abilities so well,'' she said.

''It's a great company.''

The production returns to the tale as told by the Brothers Grimm.

Smeulders decided against basing the ballet on the fairytale by Charles Perrault.

She said she wanted to make something that was family friendly and accessible to everyone. ''It has a strong storyline with morals and values and love where evil always loses in the end and goodness triumphs,'' she said. ''It's got a lot of humour and many different styles of dance in a classic production.''

Cavallari said Smeulders, also a mother of three, was an exceptional artist and strong dancer with great musicality, but he also said she injected something special into the company.

''She will make Cinderella's crystal shoe shine,'' he said. Smeulders said the set and costumes, created by Allan Lees, conjured up a magical world. She was especially taken with Sergei Prokofiev's score, which she said was easy to choreograph to because it ''tells the story for you''.

Smeulders said she didn't have to work hard to tell the story.

''It's a story that people know,'' she said.

"People feel comfortable coming knowing it's not going to be a dark twisted version of Cinderella."