InEmily Kate Long's lithe, poised, precise body, the fairy-tale heroine Cinderella is not some dainty waif waiting to be rescued by a handsome prince. She calls the shots and gets the guy her way.
The 24-year-old Rock Islander embodies the title role for Ballet Quad Cities in Sergei Prokofiev's 1945 setting for the second time. The first was in 2011, and again Ms. Long is paired with her veteran partner Jake Lyon, and the same choreography is by BQC artistic director Courtney Lyon. Beyond some new dancers in Saturday's production, this is not the same ballet, Ms. Long recently said.
"The story has gotten a lot more complex. The characters have gotten a lot stronger," she said. "We ended up with this awesome chemistry between the dancers and the way we've all chosen to make our characters."
Compared to the last time, "Cinderella is more in charge of herself. She's a little bit more savvy, more confident about taking control of her own story," Ms. Long said. Unlike thetraditional story, Cinderella doesn't lose her shoe at the ball, she leaves it on purpose, "as a clue for the prince because she wants him to find her," she noted.
The last time, Ms. Long played the part morehelpless, "like I'm being pulled away, the fate is out of my hands," she said. Now, Cinderella is more proactive. "It's a lot more about the power of hope and what that can do for people, and believe that maybe good things will happen to them," she said. "She is not a victim, even when she gets pushed around. She fights back and she never loses hope. She pulls herself up by her bootstraps and keeps on keeping on."
The story sets a good tone about "how to deal with negativity of any kind," Ms. Long said of the classic tale. "Sometimes the stepsisters are being deliberately mean to her, and other times they're just being goofy.As bad as Cinderella has it, in the end she doesn't let it get to her. She never stoops to their level."
As a dancer and a person, Ms. Long (who's also starred as Clara in the BQC's "Nutcracker") has grown "astronomically" over two years, she said. "It's reallycool to think there's a huge difference between 2011 and this year, and if we do it again, there's probably going to be another huge difference."
Not only has her character gained strength, but Ms. Long has gained confidence doing the role again and being paired with Mr. Lyon.
"It adds a layer of confidence and trust. When you don't have to think as hard or worry about whether the steps are gonna happen, you can put all of your energy into just being the character," she said. "There's so much trust there. We both know each other really well; we get along really well. Anything on stage, I know 100 percent he's always going to be there for me."
This also is the final production of BQC's first season partnering with Orchestra Iowa, with live music for its productions and performances in the orchestra's home city of Cedar Rapids.
Having live orchestra (compared to a recording) is "magical," Ms. Long said. "It's so cool to hear them play the ("Cinderella") score. It's so complex, so emotional, just as it's written. We get used to the recording we use in rehearsal, so your ear starts to tune things out a little bit. It's hearing the music fresh, and it sort of forces and teases other things out of our performances, based on whether the tempo is slower or faster, if you hear a certain group of instruments."
"It makes me wish I could sit down on stage and listen," she said.
A review of last Saturday's ballet in Cedar Rapids (posted on hooplawnow.com) said:"Everything about this production is magical, from Courtney Lyon's beautiful choreography perfectly in sync with the powerful music under Maestro Timothy Hankewich's baton, to the elegance and humor of the dancers and the simply lovely costumes, backdrops and lighting.
"Orchestra Iowa and Ballet Quad Cities is a match made in heaven," the review said.
A special Saturday morning program at the RiverCenter -- geared to girls and young women --will feature Ms. Long talking about becoming a professional dancer, the importance of living a healthy, well-balanced life, and having the courage to be all you want to be. Other dancers (including some of the 10 students in the ballet) also will participate.
Patrons will leave with a better understanding of the storyof Cinderella and what it takes to overcome obstacles in life to be successful. You also can enjoyphoto opportunities with the costumed pixies, fairies andprincesses from the production.
"I hope they will have a great time meeting the characters, communicating the message of confidence, of being able to do whatever you set your mind to," Ms. Long said. The ballet teaches students (ages 9 to 17)important skills like how to support the story as a whole. "The story can't happen without everyone's 150 percent commitment," she said.
"Dance as a medium has so many layers. It's a great vehicle for pretty much anything you want to say," Ms. Long said. "It's up to the performer, to the choreographer to know what they want to say. Then it's up to the audience to have some understanding -- they will always view the story through their own lens."
"It's a shared artistic experience, a shared creative experience," she said, noting ballet audiences "create" as well. "The audience is helping us create. Part of our experience is based on their response. The more enthusiastic they are, it encourages us to bump it up a little bit."
If you go
-- What: Ballet Quad Cities' "Cinderella"
-- When: 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
-- Where: Adler Theatre, 136 E. 3rd St., Davenport.
-- Tickets: $12, $17, $27 and $35, available at the Adler box office, Ticketmaster.com, 800-745-3000 and select Ticketmaster outlets.
NOTE: A program will be held before the matinee, "Discover the Cinderella in You," from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the RiverCenter next door, for girls and young women, accompanied by an adult. Tickets are $15 per person (children and adults), including lunch; Pre-sales only; no walk-ins. Call 309-786-3779.