Ballet Preljocaj – Snow White

blanche_neige_3 by Jean-Claude CarbonneBlancheNeige09 by Jean-Claude Carbonne

 

 

By Joel Benjamin

 

 

 

Under the auspices of the Joyce Theater Foundation Ballet Preljocaj presented the full length ballet Snow White, an eagerly anticipated work from the world-renowned choreographer Angelin Preljocaj. While no one expected his Snow White at the David H. Koch Theater to resemble the cheerful, slightly creepy Disney version, his interpretation, set mostly to Mahler, was so entirely off the mark and uneven that there’s no way of knowing exactly what Preljocaj was trying to communicate in this over-produced, under-lit and over-long ballet. It was neither a light entertainment nor a gothic-sexy romp, neither ballet nor modern dance: just a badly told story told in repetitious choreography backed by very lavish sets and costumes.

From the first scene in which the very pregnant Mother slowly traverses a fog filled forest to the scenes of pointless revelry in the palace of the King to the ending in which the evil Queen is forced to dance to death, Mr. Preljocaj’s story-telling and choreography was arbitrary and slim on psychological motivation. Why was the Mother wandering around at night like that, only to die, her infant violently pulled from her dead body? Why was the Queen attired as an S&M dominatrix, complete with leather whip and two sinuous cats? Why was the Prince, who meets Snow White during an interminable court dance sequence, wearing pink toreador pants? (Costumes were by the brilliant fashion icon Jean Paul Gaultier, who couldn’t seem to settle on a period, although his white diaper-dress for Snow White said more about her character than Mr. Preljocaj’s movements for her.)

Mr. Preljocaj used a mirror device straight out of a Marx Brothers film. The Queen kept looking into a huge screen behind which was a doppelganger at first and Snow White eventually, the sight of whom enraged her.  I fully expected Harpo to come skipping out.

Instead of the seven dwarfs he had seven miners, which was an excuse to have them rappelling up and down a mountain-climbing wall full of cave-like cubbyholes, a scene which went on so long it interrupted the flow of the story. When the seven miners finally met Snow White, they all had a jolly time sitting around going against the very sexual undertone of the whole ballet which included a very pretty orgy scene in mid-forest for some reason.

The last straw was the absurd scene in which the Prince finds the comatose Snow White—she ate the poison apple—and uses her flaccid body like a punching bag, dropping her, flipping her, stretching her and finally leaving her in a heap on the floor, stage left. As he moped stage right, she regained consciousness and the two had a romantic kissy-face leading to the next-to-final scene where they get married. (The last scene was the deserved humiliation of the obsessed evil Queen.)

The dancers were all fine acolytes of Mr. Preljocaj’s style. Nagisa Shirai was lovely as Snow White, with a luminous, youthful quality. Sergio Diaz as the Prince acted well, but wasn’t as technically secure in the more classical demands of the choreography. The King didn’t have much dancing to do, but Sergi Amoros Aparicio projected dignity and real affection for his daughter. Anne Tatarova certainly dominated the stage with her S&M Queen. She had zest and sensuality in a role that could have come off as cartoony. Gaëlle Chappaz, in her short birthing scene, had a masterful dark quality making her grief palpable.

The incredibly complex sets by Thierry Leproust, although overdone, were a show in themselves.

 

Ballet Preljocaj – Snow White (April 23-27, 2014)

David H. Koch Theater

Lincoln Center

New York, NY

Tickets and Information about upcoming Joyce Theater Events: 212-242-0800 or www.joyce.org

Running Time: 2 hrs. no intermission

Share