In one of the world’s oldest and most popular fairy tales, a young woman would retire after a long day of chores to the barren and cold room given to her and would curl up near the fireplace in an effort to stay warm. She would often arise covered in cinders, giving rise to the nickname “Cinderella”. As the story evolves, Cinderella goes on to become a beautiful princess, overcoming the obstacles she once faced. Syracuse City Ballet had its own ‘Cinderella Moment’ when it suffered a warehouse fire that destroyed many of its permanent sets, props, and costumes in 2013.
“Seeing our priceless items ruined was devastating,” said Kathleen Rathbun, Syracuse City Ballet artistic director. “These were one-of-a-kind items that talented volunteers had hand-painted or sewn, and antiques collected over the years. The dancers saw costumes that they had worn in numerous productions, now ruined. It was very sad for them.”
But the loss didn’t last long. The ballet received an outpouring of support from current and former dancers, set and costume designers from around the country, and local community members. Together they helped the organization rise from the ashes by securing the funds necessary to replace some of its lost items not covered by insurance. In addition, a grant from the Community Foundation helped the Ballet replace costumes and sets needed to put on its own production of Cinderella.
“Thanks to the grant, we were able to really put on a high-caliber production,” said Rathbun. “The costumes that were made, including new fairy tutus with stunning Swarovski crystals and extravagant ball gowns, brought the whole production to a new level.”
The Ballet packed the Crouse-Hinds Theater for three performances of Cinderella that included more than 40 local youth and professional performers. A partnership with The Corning Museum of Glass led to an awe-inspiring display of a hand-made glass slipper that was raffled off after the production concluded. Many children arrived with their families to watch the performance, dressed as their favorite fairy tale princesses.
Because of their permanent nature, the items produced with our grant can be repurposed for future productions. The Ballet currently puts on up to two full-length productions a year and collaborates with many other local arts organizations and venues to produce various smaller productions.
The Syracuse City Ballet is the only professional ballet company serving the Central New York community. It aims to provide family-oriented entertainment while offering opportunities for local professional, pre-professional, and student dancers to perform in classical and premier works with national and international guest artists.
Young, aspiring dancers come from communities throughout Central New York to participate in the ballet company. Many go on to college to study dance and join professional production companies. Witnessing the past dancers successfully continue on to do what they love inspires the new dancers to work harder because they can see what is possible.
Leaders of the Ballet believe that by dedicating their time to making story ballets available to a diverse audience, they will grow the audience for dance in this community.
“Our philosophy has been to engage audiences at a young age and grow their appreciation for the art of dance,” said Rathbun. “A vibrant arts community encourages collaboration and instills local pride, draws people together, and is essential to the community’s vitality. The Ballet contributes to the richness of Central New York’s cultural palette by building enchantment with this classical art.”