Ballet Preljocaj’s “Snow White” Review – Grimm’s Fairy Tale Simmering with Sex and Power


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. 


The Prince tries to coax life back into Snow White


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.


At one point in the duet we marvel that Snow White seems to literally bounce off of her lover's head like a graceful soccer ball


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.


The lighting and set design in the opening provide a dramatic portrayal of Snow White's mother dying in childbirth


It opens with darkness, fog and storm as we watch Snow White’s mother die in childbirth. 


The corps de ballet provides a light moment to contrast with the dark tale that unfolds later


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.


The Queen's dance reawakens every moment of rage you have ever felt


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 narcissistic Queen with her creepy pet cat-bats ask the mirror for assurance that her beauty is unsurpassed


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. 


Disguised as a beggar, the evil stepmother lures Snow White with a poisoned apple


Eventually, when the envy-consumed disguised Queen gives Snow White the poisoned apple, her violent dance silently conveys her scream ‘DIE, DIE, DIE”. 


The powerful and evil Stepmother forces Snow White to eat the poisoned apple with movements that seem to scream "Die, Die, Die!"



There is then a long and delayed awakening of Snow White once her true love Prince finds her.  


We watch the Prince as he tries to awaken sleeping Snow White


And tries again


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.   


The much anticipated kiss awakens Snow White


They didn’t have X-ratings in the time of Grimm, but they sure do now.


When the Queen discovers that Snow White has revived from the poisoned apple she whips the stage with her movements of rage


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




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