Snow White’s dark magic forces the innocence to push through obstacles of more than the reality of life. It is haunting; full of raw emotions. This is art made on stage.
Admittedly, I had high expectations for Ballet Preljocaj. Contemporary ballet from one of France’s most acclaimed companies, combined with the costume designs by Jean Paul Gaultier was a sell for me. But this production had even more to offer its audiences than the beguiling costumes on highly skillful dancers!
Who doesn’t like a dark story? Well, this ballet occasionally borders on nightmare with poignant choreography full of terror and violence. Snow White bites the apple? Be ready to experience her full agony as the queen drags her around the stage by the same apple that she had just shoved into her mouth. Baby Snow White is found by the King shortly after her birth? Be prepared to witness the childbirth as her mother battles through the pain, dying in the process. Yes, it is rather intense for an opening scene, but certainly grabs the attention! And hats off to this production for being able to evoke emotions from the first minutes of the show!
As much as the dark side of the Grimm fairy tales makes a stamp in this production, it delves with equally unbridled enthusiasm into innocence and beauty. The gorgeous scene where baby Snow White becomes an endearing little girl, and then a young woman, captures in mere minutes the warmth between a father and a daughter. Angelin Preljocaj’s refreshing choreography culminates in the mesmerising duet between Snow White and her prince – a duet that turns traumatic when the prince attempts to recreate the magic of love with the dead Snow White. (Impressively conveyed by the dancers remembering the increased difficulty in executing an already difficult pas de deux as a limp and lifeless body!)
Of course, no Snow White is complete without the seven dwarfs. The rocky mountain imposing over the stage with heads poking through a few holes set up meters above the floor suddenly became its own stage – the choreographed rock-climb, complete with aerial acrobatics and ambitious movement in flawless formations just showed how daring and uncompromising this production really is. Dwarfs are short, you say? No problem – when they’re suspended off a mountain (or crawling up and down it!), they not only look short but they conceptually become something other than human! The element of surprise in art is what makes it truly special – when our already satisfied appetite for the visual is treated to yet another height of imagination. A particularly lovely touch was the clapping game unfolding like a kaleidoscope in rhythmic floor work. The girl proves a heart-warming addition to the dwarfs, completing the ‘family.’
This fully three-dimensional production sees no boundaries in either its use of space or its ability to transport the audience effortlessly between the scenes. Thierry Leproust’s ingenuity dazzles the senses. You can’t have Snow White without a mirror, and the queen’s cats look even more menacing when they’re staring at their own reflection than they do when they’re nearly jumping into the orquestra pit! (Sitting in the front row has its charms.)
Ballet Preljocaj’s taste for humanity entwined with messy emotions and superb theatricality is totally français! “Snow White” is joyous, crude, sexual, violent and naive in just the right amounts. Poetry in motion and pure artistry! All in all – I have not felt so captivated by a performance since Marcel Marceau’s Australian one man show in 2006. Applause and encore s’il vous plaît!