As part of QPAC’s International Series, France’s Ballet Preljocaj’s contemporary interpretation of Snow White made its Australian debut at the Brisbane Festival.
An adult version, based on the original Brothers Grimm’s nineteenth-century story, the contemporary ballet (sans ballet shoes) offers a dark and dramatic ‘thriller’ (dubbed thus by Albanian-French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj), this is certainly not Disney!
Preljocaj (pronounced Prezh-o-kazh), explores the ever-present themes of youth, beauty, jealousy, ageing, and the endless quest to remain both youthful and sexually desirable – a phenomenon which Preljocaj terms the ‘Snow White Complex’.
Although the narrative of the ballet is more faithful to Grimm than Disney, there have been some changes to the plot, in which Preljocaj has introduced the Prince at the beginning to create the love story (and great pas de deux dance opportunities), rather than later as just a passer-by who stumbles across Snow White’s lifeless body encased in glass after eating that truly rotten apple. There are some great choreographic moments in this piece, which surprise, delight, and shock.
The love scene pas de deux between Snow White (Emilie Lalande) and the Prince (Redi Shtylla) in complete silence was the perfect soundscape to make this piece totally captivating.
The over-sized magic mirror (set design by Thierry Leproust) symbolised the Step Mother/Queen’s narcissistic qualities as she danced with her own reflection. The choreography and execution was so precise that it took a while to figure out that it wasn’t actually a mirror, but another dancer on the other side. Her playful feline four-legged side-kicks (Margaux Coucharrierere and Verity Jacobsen) even got in on the act, which helped to sell the illusion further.
Finding out that the Queen (Cecilia Torres Morillo) is no longer the fairest in the land, she then tortures poor Snow White in
Several disturbing but brilliantly choreographed sequences feature in the production, including the Prince’s pas de deux with a lifeless Snow White (Shtylla was utterly compelling in the piece, not only with his physical prowess, but in his palpable despair) and a sadistic and brutal duet with the Queen and Snow White which sees our heroine dragged by the poisoned apple in her mouth.
There are many memorable moments in this piece, not least of which was the abseiling entrance of the dwarfs in a synchronised aerial ballet; twirling, jumping and swinging acrobatically down the mine’s rock face like a Cirque du Soeil troupe. Gauging by the curtain call, they were clearly a crowd pleaser.
The sountrack was an unconventional mixture of Gustav Mahler’s symphonies performed by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Johannes Fritszch), and an electronic soundscape by 79D, which enhanced the edginess of the production.
Perhaps the crowing glory of Preljocaj’s Snow White are the gorgeous costumes designed by Haute Couture designer Jean Paul Gaultier, with the stunning centrepiece worn by the evil Queen, who is clad in dominatrix-style leather, stiletto heels and a black cape that bleeds to red at the bottom.
Contrasting this striking vision is Snow White’s costume (although she isn’t as pure in this version as the name suggests), as she wears a Grecian styled toga/diaper-dress with slits up the side that shows plenty of thigh to suggest blossoming sexuality.
Dark and twisty, Ballet Preljocaj’s Snow White, brings ballet, kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.
QPAC is also providing an extension program to delve deeper into the production with a Q&A, backstage tours, a dance masterclass, a live streaming event, or share your poison apple secret confession in an online and physical, immersive sound art installation. For more information, visit QPAC’s Website – Extension Program, visit their website: https://www.qpac.com.au/snow-white-extension.
Performed as a single act without interval, Snow White runs for 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Warning: Recommended for ages 12 years and older. One scene contains partial nudity.