|Ballet Preljocaj's Blanche Neige (modified poster)|
I started a draft of this story early in the week but was unable to finish it and I'm now glad I didn't. I originally focused on the world famous fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier and his unique take on Snow White for Ballet Preljocaj's Blanche Neige, which is finally touring the US. Despite that it was Gaultier's collaboration that initially caught my eye (that's the Gaultier of the infamous cone-shaped bra for Madonna's Blonde Ambition tour in 1990), the more I read about the work, the more I wanted to share other aspects of this new-to-us Snow White as well (the ballet actually debuted in France in 2008 and has since won awards). From a study of strong females and the evil queen, through to comments from the choreographer on the story of Snow White's relevance today, there's a few treats ahead in the excerpts.
Note: Ballet Preljocaj's Blanche Neige is a contemporary dance work, not a traditional tutu ballet.
I'll begin with this wonderful article by Pamela Trokanski of The Davis Enterprise who's actually familiar with Grimm's Little Snow White and fairy tales in general so, amongst the images of Gaultier's amazing costumes, I'll give you excerpts from here and a few other places.
From The Davis Enterprise on the ballet itself:
I grew up reading fairy tales — the real ones — before political correctness and cultural “sanitization” took place. They were stories of love and terror, of cruelty and revenge, of retribution and atonement. Good ultimately conquered evil, although there was often a price to pay, by both victim and perpetrator.
Choreographer Angelin Preljocaj understands this in his bones. And he certainly speaks the language of fairy tale, fluently and faultlessly. His “Blanche Neige” (“Snow White”) is a stunning, visually opulent, work that captures the Grimm fairy tale version exquisitely.
The entrance of the pregnant mother, danced by Nuriya Nagimova, her slow progression as she toils across the stage, desperate in childbirth, says a great deal about the power of well wedded movement to sound. The appearance of seven miners (not noted in the program) out of caves, high above the stage, rappelling down a rock wall, dancing vertically and horizontally above the stage, was unexpected and joyous, toying with our expectations that dance happens on a flat surface and is bound by gravity.
Also captivating: the reappearance of the dead mother, materializing from above, hovering over and lifting her dead daughter momentarily, before leaving.
There are small, but crucial choreographic touches that convey the story. The passage of time, between the King finding the baby, and Snow White’s growing up, is neatly conveyed by a simple, yet effective, use of set. The King moves behind a column of material, the baby sheltered in his arms, only to reappear with the young girl, beautifully portrayed by 9-year-old Camilla Pedrosa of Davis. (McKenna Lincoln, 10, of Woodland, danced the role Sunday.) Dancing with his young daughter, he circles yet another column, this time reappearing with Snow White as a young woman, danced by Virginie Caussin.
The cats, minions of The Queen, were perfectly matched and moved sinuously across the stage, menacing and mischievous. Dancers Natacha Grimaud and Lorena O’Neil were perfectly suited for these roles. Athletic and elegant, they were able to convey both the bonelessness of languid felines and their willingness to play with prey.
The Prince, danced by Sergio Diaz, made a marvelous partner for Snow White. While their opening interactions at the ballroom were everything they needed to be, it was the duet of the prince and the dead/unconscious Snow White that was incomparable. A pas de deux with one partner required to act limp and unresponsive calls for strength, timing, trust and true connection.
(Edit FTNH: Sounds like choreographer Kenneth MacMillan's tomb pas de deux of Romeo & Juliet - which is also amazing and heart wrenching.)
Did anything not work for me? An opening scene at court went a little long. Also, the program notes, by Preljocaj, state his belief that the wicked stepmother is, to him, the central character. I didn’t see that at all. But all in all, these are very small things, nothing compared to the torment of the wicked stepmother, forced to wear red-hot iron shoes and dance to her death.
“Snow White has this beautiful flowing costume, but it’s almost nonexistent on the side,” said Renae Williams Niles, director of programming at the Music Center. “So you see far more of Snow White than you ever thought you would.”
shopfair:) The costumes were designed by Jean Paul Gaultier and really suited the modern interpretation of the classic fairytale choreographed by Angelin Preljocaj to music by Gustav Mahler. The designs ranged from subtle JPG touches like straps and suspenders to full-blown JPG with the stepmother's bondage queen outfit (which was wonderful) and the best use of fringe I have seen this year (pictured on the right). "This is not the first time that Gaultier designs clothes for dancers. He has collaborated with Régine Chopinot, the choreographer, for 11 years in the past(1983-1994), during which he had sewed costumes for –more or less- 18 ballets choreographed by Chopinot."