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Ballet Preljocaj, Blanche-Neige

We had the rare chance on Saturday night to see the Ballet Preljocaj outside their home base, the Pavillon Noir, when they came to the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. For this American tour, choreographer Angelin Preljocaj has revived his hard-hitting version of Blanche-Neige, the Snow White story he created in 2008, part theater, part special-effects spectacle, part modern dance. The choreography completely circumvents the sugary, sanitized version of the story made popular by Walt Disney's film, starting instead with the much more brutal version of the story by the Brothers Grimm.

The story is told through vivid tableaux, and only during some of the longer corps scenes -- courtiers dancing to entertain the king and Snow White, the half-clothed youths Snow White encounters when she is driven away from the court by her jealous stepmother, the arm and body movements reminding slightly of the choreography of Mark Morris -- did the sense of forward motion stall. Most of the music was not composed for the work, excerpts from the symphonies of Mahler, stitched together with filler pieces in an electronic style (attributed to 79D). The plodding Bruder Martin theme from Mahler's first symphony, a melody like Frère Jacques set in the minor mode, serves for the striking dance of the dwarves, rappelling up and down and across a mountain face at the back of the stage (pictured above, sets by Thierry Leproust). Perhaps Mahler's most famous passage, the Adagietto from the fifth symphony, is heard during the pas de deux, where the Prince (Fabrizio Clemente, strong and tall) drags the inert body of Snow White (sweet, innocent Virginie Caussin) around the stage in desperate anguish, before she is revived by his kiss. The excerpts are all instrumental -- no vocal pieces from the second, third, fourth, or eighth -- and only occasionally did the new context bother ears familiar with the music, with some of the "O glaube" sections from the second symphony.

Other Reviews:

Sarah Kaufman, Ballet Preljocaj’s ‘Snow White’ shines (Washington Post, April 2)

---, Designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s twist on ballet is a unique ‘Snow White’ (Washington Post, March 24)

Laura Bleiberg, Ballet Preljocaj's 'Snow White' at the Music Center (Los Angeles Times, March 25)

Harmony Wheeler, Ballet Preljocaj Presents Stunning BLANCHE NEIGE in U.S. Tour (Broadway World, March 19)
Miss Ionarts, my companion for all dance performances, wisely chose not to attend: this fairy tale is for adults. The music, all recorded, was played at a level sometimes uncomfortable in the house, with the electronic music adding to the grim, Gothic feel of the production, in a murky tenebrism. The opening scene sets the tone of the work, showing the birth of Snow White, with the king coldly leaving her mother to die. The villain of this production is the S&M-tinged queen of Patrizia Telleschi, with some memorable scenes in front of a large mirror, in which she and her pair of feline gargoyles are doubled by other dancers as reflections. While the more "traditional" choreography left one a little in doubt of Preljocaj's interest, the more acrobatic and theatrical scenes were often breathtaking. At one point, the ghost of Snow White's mother flies in on a wire, hovering over the prone girl and lifting her up into the air. At another a dark, primeval forest is the setting for the three soldiers' attack on Snow White, throwing her back and forth like a rag doll. They are ultimately moved by the girl's beauty and send her on her way, instead taking the heart of a stag, a bare-breasted dancer who moved in stops and starts in a visually compelling, half-lit scene. The Costumes designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, in places quite similar in style to those he designed for Luc Besson's film The Fifth Element, are part Flash Gordon and part Renaissance fair.

The remaining stops on Ballet Preljocaj's North American tour are venues in Chapel Hill (N.C.), Minneapolis, and Ann Arbor (Mich.), through April 21.

1 comment:

mld said...

I saw this ballet in France and this is just amazing. If you have the possibility to buy a ticket, don't hesitate a second.