This is part three of a three-part preview series about Nashville Ballet’s family-friendly production of Cinderella, running Sept. 16 – 18 at TPAC’s Polk Theater. Read part one here. Read part two here. Pictured above: Kayla Rowser as a fairy in Nashville Ballet’s 2011 production of the show.
Like most little girls, when Nashville Ballet principal dancer Kayla Rowser was a child, she liked the classic princess stories like Cinderella, but the Conyers, Ga., native says she was more drawn to the funny characters in those tales.
“Everyone in my household had a great sense of humor, so I think I really connected with that,” says Rowser, who plays the lead character in Nashville Ballet’s production of Cinderella this weekend (she alternates the role with fellow dancer Sarah Cordia).
In Nashville Ballet’s 2011 production, Rowser played a fairy and says her progression as a dancer from five years ago to filling Cinderella’s shoes has been fun. “It’s a good way to check in and see your growth. Sometimes I feel like as dancers we don’t always see it for ourselves. It’s been really fun to go back and dance a role that I was able to understudy the last time but didn’t have the chance to perform,” she says.
“So many little girls do connect with princess fairytales and the idea of finding your true love, and it’s really fun to portray our version of Cinderella, because it’s a little different than what was shown to me growing up,” Rowser says.
That variation is one of empowerment. “The Cinderella story is a very old one that’s been around for a long time … this idea of a magical transformation,” says Nashville Ballet Artistic Director/CEO Paul Vasterling. “What I found in the older stories is she was a little bit more assertive and less of a victim of the circumstances in which she found herself,” he adds.
“I think it’s great that Paul doesn’t see Cinderella that way, as a victim,” Rowser adds, noting that she thinks it’s great for young girls — and boys — to see a different version of the character. “Even if they don’t fully understand the fine-line difference of the prince coming to rescue you versus knowing that this is something you deserve and that you can go out and make your own way. You don’t have to be a victim of your own fate. I think that is powerful, and it’s something I can connect with as a woman now and show young girls that you can go out and find what is yours and forge your own path,” she says.
During the rehearsal process with local kids in the cast the past couple of weeks, Rowser is quick to admit that they are the best feedback. “They have a really sweet innocence, and if something’s funny, they’re really gonna laugh,” she says. “I’ve had a few moments in the studio where girls will say, ‘I like that you tried to fight the stepsisters,’ and that was really cool.”
In addition to entertaining families with kids of all ages, Rowser hopes the audience takes away a message of the importance of being kind to others and creating one’s own journey. “If you want something, you can work really hard, do your best, be gracious to others, and you will be able to have opportunities open up for you,” she says. “I hope kids take away the importance of being true to yourself, knowing your worth and that you can create your own magic. You don’t need someone else to do it for you.”