Once upon a time, Angelin Preljocaj’s world-renowned dance company staged an incredible adaptation of Snow White. Actually, it happened earlier this month (May 2-4) when Ballet Preljocaj debuted the Brothers Grimm classic in Chicago at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.
Since this was one of only three stops on the company’s U.S. tour (New York’s Lincoln Center and the Los Angeles Music Center were the others), Chicagoans were fortunate to witness France’s leading contemporary dance ensemble in action—and in costumes by Haute Couture designer Jean Paul Gaultier.
Artistic Director and Bessie Award-winner Angelin Preljocaj provided the extraordinary choreography that challenged various troupe members to dance in stilettos, perform both vertically and horizontally on the floor, move in mid-air and literally climb the walls of the seemingly simple yet majestically epic sets by Thierry Leproust which included an interactive gold-framed mirror that allowed the dancers to became one with the set (make that two with their reflection).
Following the charming cameo performance of Young Snow White (student of the Joffrey Academy of Dance Anna Conroy), the fully-grown albeit petite yet powerful Émilie Lalande took center stage as the title character. Successfully masking her undeniable athleticism with a fragile physicality, Lalande artistically relayed wonder, romance, fear, fight and compassion through her exquisite movements.
Seemingly weightless and docile, she made the ideal foil to the Queen (Anna Tatarova/Cecilia Torres Morillo) who boldly dominated the program with her stunning looks, strategic kicks and expressive antics while Snow White’s Mother (Gaëlle Chappaz/Lea De Natale) provided a gracefully poetic yet equally dark touch to the story.
Adding to the Goth tone were the symphonies of Gustav Mahler, skillfully selected to punctuate the excellent performances of every dancer including the Prince (Jean-Charles Jousni), King (Sergi Amoros Aparicio/Julien Thibault) and Cats/Gargoyles (Caroline Jaubert, Margaux Coucharrière, Wilma Puentes Linares, Aude Miyagi).
“We’re proud to bring this highly innovative performance to Chicago for the first time,” notes Harris Theater President and Managing Director Michael Tiknis. “Snow White combines singular classicism with the excitement of a modern day thriller. This is a ballet unlike any other, a visceral mix of style and story with broad appeal—from the athletic choreography to the fashion-forward costumes of Jean Paul Gaultier.”
Indeed, this premier premiere proved a finely-crafted fairy tale can be even more magical on stage than on the page.