In less than two hours Ballet Preljocaj undoes the layers of whitewash of Snow White’s story done by decades of Disney. This is a tale of power, envy and evil closer to Grimm’s pen.
As the story unfolds we see a prima ballerina dance with a studied limpness that amazes, duets so sensual we ache, dwarves repel from mountains in perfect ensemble, and a crazed stepmother powerfully pounding the stage as she is consumed by the furies of her envy.
With similar couturier help that Madonna got to make stages rock with dominatrix laced sex appeal, Gaultier’s costumes help make the vulnerable Snow White more naked than naked. The corps de ballet wears some of his signature leather cage body belts, and the wicked stepmother’s high-heeled black and red garb screams bloodlust from the start. This is a ballet where the costumes alone are worth the price of admission. (Read a full review of the recent Brooklyn Museum exhibit of Gaultier’s unique couturier talents evolving through the decades here.)
Choreographer Preljocaj of France uses Mahler’s symphonies and 24 dancers to make the tale of Snow White come to life.
It opens with darkness, fog and storm as we watch Snow White’s mother die in childbirth.
There is a brief interlude of lightness and joy as we join now grown Snow White and her king father entertained by the happy court.
Enter the wicked stepmother and all joy vanishes quickly into a vacuum. Now we have a dance of power and domination.
Again a break of lightness in the dark tale when we see the skillful dance of the dwarves, Snow White’s friends, up and down a mountain.
That light moment primes us again for the return of evil.
We see the StepMother who had been reinforced when the mirror on the wall told her she is fairest of them all, now with rage unleashed as the mirror instead brings Snow White’s vision as fairest of the land.
We watch as the jealous Queen conspires to kill Snow White.
Eventually, when the envy-consumed disguised Queen gives Snow White the poisoned apple, her violent dance silently conveys her scream ‘DIE, DIE, DIE”.
There is then a long and delayed awakening of Snow White once her true love Prince finds her.
Both the choreography of this duet and its execution amazed. Snow White is so yielding that we think her flaccid body to be lifeless.
The Prince’s revival of Snow White and the Queen’s self-destructive envy dance tie up the story in a the way of fairy tales, with good trumping evil.
They didn’t have X-ratings in the time of Grimm, but they sure do now.
The Harris Theater was one of only three venues in which Ballet Preljocaj performs Snow White during its US tour. The Harris Theater’s perfect sight lines enhanced this as other dance performances. More world-class dance events at the Harris are soon to come. For information visit the Harris Theater website or call 312 224 7777.
Photos: JC Carbonne
Video: Courtesy of Ballet Preljocaj