Saturday, May 15, 2010

REVIEW: Snow White (Blanche-Neige) by Ballet Preljocaj

It was a dark Snow White.

The opening night of the Le French May's Snow White (Blanche-Neige) by Ballet Preljocaj on the 14th of May at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre was a full house event. This production of Snow White was premiered in September 2008 at the Biennale de la Danse de Lyon in France and received a Crystal Globe for the Best Dance Show of the Year in 2009. This modern dance version was created by Angelin Preljocaj and uses the music of Gustav Mahler primarily. The costumes were designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier (of the Madonna's twin-coned corset fame), and all promotional communications ensured that this fact was made known.

The show was performed without an interval. It was enjoyable enough except for the French-speaking people behind me. They decided that they would discuss the show as if they were watching it on the television at home. One of them even decided to remove her shoes and rest her feet on the back of the empty seat beside me. Her wriggling toes in my peripheral vision and the intermittent seat jerking due to her shifting ass were just inappropriate and very annoying.

When interpreting a story through modern dance, I sometimes find that some choreographers tend to inject more miming than dance. I am glad to see that Angelin is not that kind of choreographer. While some of the ensemble dances were very unmemorable and standard, Angelin excelled in the solos and pas de deuxs. I was particularly impressed in the prince's inconsolable dance with the lifeless body of Snow White; and in the sadistic and menacing dance of the wicked stepmother and Snow White as the stepmother throws Snow White around all the while with the apple still in Snow White's mouth.

There were some cheesy visual effects such as the dwarves' acrobatic act on the wall and the wicked stepmother's Marcel Marceu-like mirror mime. However, I do see that they can be quite entertaining for younger or inexperienced audiences; thus creating a very good commercially viable show. The show's strength relies on the familiar story and its new treatment.

The show was not the sweet and cute type. Instead, it was rough and raw. The story was brought back to its folk origin as collected and recorded by the Brothers Grimm. Costumes were more ethnic glamour rather than the traditional flouncy outfits associated with fairytales. Quite interestingly, this happily-ever-after conclusion also meant that the wicked stepmother got punished by forcing her into a pair of red-hot iron shoes while she danced until she fell down dead. Mr. Disney would not allow that.


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At October 9, 2010 at 2:55 PM , Blogger wcutler said...

I thought it the most brilliant ballet I've ever seen. But I think I saw a different movie - I got confused and thought it was Swan Lake, which was convincing right from the opening scene with the mist in the shape of swan's wings drifting in over the lake. The costumes were clearly swan feathers, the motions seemed deliberately evocative of swans, several of the ensemble dances were clearly the cygnets, complete with youngsters' games. It never occurred to me that anyone could see the "dwarves' acrobatic acts" as anything but spiders crawling around on a wall. I LOVED my movie.


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