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DANCING THE VILLAIN

As a little girl, I was well aware of fairy tales, and among the classics "Sleeping Beauty" and "Snow White," there was "Cinderella." Cinderella guided me, as well as many other little girls, through tedious household chores, with visions of handsome princes whisking us away from the unexalted task of cleaning the bathroom floor.

My chance has come again to experience "Cinderella" -- as a dancer in the Greater Buffalo Youth Ballet's production of "Cinderella." I will dance the role of Grizella, the evil stepsister, and even though it is a far reach from being the beautiful princess, the role has its benefits. What could be more fun than becoming a totally outrageous person, falling down on purpose and being the opposite of yourself? "I really like being a stepsister," agrees Sarah Hartmans, a junior at Kenmore East who plays the other stepsister, Anastasia. "You get to fall onstage, and if you mess up it fits with the part."

Our bizarre antics are further amplified by ridiculous stage makeup and gaudy costumes. Anastasia's character is completed with a thick uni-brow and a blackened tooth, and for me, a large hairy mole is added to my nose, and painted-on, uncontrollable eyebrows reach to my forehead. But even this ugly makeup does not hold a candle to the flamboyant getups we don. Resembling giant cupcakes, we arrogantly strut and stumble around the stage.

The biggest challenge of performing a character role like the stepsisters or the stepmother is really getting into the part. You have to forget that Cinderella is the friend you see every day at dance class, but see her as the stepsister you are exceedingly jealous of. As soon as the music starts, I have to become Grizella, arrogant, malicious and prone to violent temper tantrums. This requires a total metamorphosis from my everyday demeanor. Taking on a role like Grizella, you have to rehearse in a totally different way, concentrating on acting and becoming a believable villian, while you dance, learn steps and count music.

Nicole Archangel, 19, a student at the University at Buffalo, is happy to dance the role of Cinderella. "Every little girl wants to be a princess and in this ballet I get to be the princess," she says.

Every part in the ballet, from Cinderella to the smallest mouse, takes concentration, and a transformation from everyday person to a magical piece of a puzzle. For some, the change begins as soon as the music starts; for others, costumes, lights, and the stage must be added to create reality out of a fairy tale. "I just get wrapped up in the story," says Meghan Burke, 13, a student at Kenmore Middle School, who dances the part of a fairy.

The Greater Buffalo Youth Ballet has dancers ranging in age from 5 to college and beyond. Director Elizabeth Distasio Waddell says working with young dancers is extremely rewarding. "I get to witness their evolution not only as dancer but as a person," she said. "Dance teaches them lessons that will stay with them through their whole life whether they dance or not."

"Cinderella" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the University of Buffalo Center for the Arts. Tickets are $15, $12 for students and senior citizens. Tickets are available at the box office. Charge by phone by calling 852-5000.