When August Tye, founder of the Hyde Park School of Dance and ballet master of the Lyric Opera, started planning a new version of Cinderella to Prokofiev’s famous score, she knew right away she would be departing from the fairytale plot. “I just couldn’t do this story with my kids; there are too many pitfalls of anti-feminist themes—women doing housework, men picking their choice of women from a ball,” she says. But Tye still wanted the name recognition of the ballet, so she tucked it in after the colon and reworked the story around more relevant, contemporary issues. “Amira: A Chicago Cinderella Story,” which plays June 15-17 at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, follows an immigrant girl and her romance with a boy at a high school dance (no princes in attendance, just kids). When Amira vanishes from the dance, the young man goes on a search through the neighborhoods of Chicago to find his love. Tye says she was inspired by working with young dancers who immigrated from Syria. “I thought about how strange it must be to have immigrated here and wondered what their perspective was on the city. I thought our story could follow a girl who immigrated to Chicago.” When Tye came across the Arabic/Hebrew name Amira, which means princess, the title was set.
The ballet, which runs seventy-five minutes, features a cast of 125 dancers from age seven to adult, all students at the Hyde Park School of Dance, in sections that range from classical ballet to modern, Horton-inspired dance. It also features a spectacular light-up tutu with sensors that respond to the rhythm of the music, designed by one of the student performers—a UChicago Lab School senior who brought together her love of dance and coding for the performance. “She also plays Amira for two of the performances,” Tye says. Then quickly adds, “Not because she designed the dress. She earned the part!” (Sharon Hoyer)
At the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 East 60th, (773)493-8498. Friday-Sunday, June 15-17. $15-$25, children five and under are free.