First review on a number One choreographer in the world
To speak of that ballet is very difficult because the theme is so popular as a fairy tale, adapted by Perrault from German folklore and then recuperated from the same folklore by the Grimm brothers, and what's more turned into an unforgettable film by Walt Disney. Angelin Preljocaj was thus trying to break a mould in which that character and her story had been cast seemingly for ever. And it is a success. Because first the setting, the stage direction are very interesting and rich. Rich are the costumes. Rich are the main ideas of the setting like the enormous magic mirror coming down from the sky, or like the deep underground mine turned into a vertical surface on which the seven dwarfs are dancing like dragon-flies on their strings. That verticality is very striking and is used several times in the ballet. People come down from the sky because maybe that is metaphor of where they are going to go down to later. Another characteristic is even a surprise for this choreographer. The movements are not erratic and broken up as too often with him. Instead they are very flexible and adaptable, one movement follows another but literally springs from the previous one and melts into the next one. Same remarks when collective dancing is taking the stage. Coordinated movements are not contradicted by some rebutting and countering figure. Even when the prince is dancing with the seemingly dead Snow White, there is a real continuity of all the various and successive gestures and movements in that pas de deux. And it is not obvious to have that kind of perfect dancing with a dead ballerina, so dead that we really believe she is. Make believe is always a great art. The two catlike familiars of the step mother are disquieting and frightening in many ways with their gestures and perambulating that look like so many arabesques on a shivering veil. We of course were expecting Preljocaj was to be breath-taking at the end. The music by Gustav Malher is very dramatic, but Preljocaj had to choose between the curbed and tamed ending of the rewriting of the German folkloric tale by Perrault, or the more realistic and cruel ending of the same Germanic tradition kept and revived by the Grimm brothers. Preljocaj did keep the tradition going back to the oldest Germanic heritage and the stepmother will die dancing in front of the fallen curtain with metal shoes that have been heated near to melting point on her feet. Quite a beautiful ending for a ballet, even if slightly gory.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
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