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Ballet Preljocaj (Aix en Provence)

April 19-20 21

Power Center, University Musical Society, The University of Michigan

Ann Arbor

Choreography Angelin Preljocaj

Costumes Jean Paul Gaultier

Music Gustav Mahler

Additional Music 79 D

Set Design Thierry Leproust

Lighting Patrick Riou

Snow White Nagisa Shirai

The Prince Fabrizio Clemente

The Queen Gael Chappaz

The Mother Nuriya Nagimova

The King Sergi Amoros Aparicio

“Cat/Gargoyles” YurieTsugawa and Lorena O’Neill

Young Snow White Vicky Wang*

Ensemble of 16 dancers

1 hour and 50 minutes-- no intermission.


I saw 2 performances of Snow White on Fri the 20th and Sat the 21st. .Someone came up to me at the end of the Saturday performance and, elated,with enthusiasm,spurted “ this is a very good ballet!”. I couldn’ t agree with her more. “”It really is a good ballet!”, she added.


Angelin Preljocaj, in terms of dancers, choreography, concept, narrative, inspiration (the brothers Grimm), costumes (le dernier cri: JPG), glows of intelligence.

In an interview with Agnes Freschel (March 2008) he says:

.... “I wanted to do something completely different, write something very concrete, and offer something magical and enchanted. No doubt it was to avoid getting into a rut. And also because, like everyone else, I love stories.’”.......

........”Bettelheim describes Snow White as an Oedipus in reverse.The wicked stepmother is without doubt the central character in the tale. She is the one who I examine through her narcissistic determination not to give up on seduction and her role as a woman, even if it means sacrificing her stepdaughter......................The ballet is

particularly important to me--- and I insist on the word “ballet”---as it brings together 25 dancers of the company. They will be dancing to Mahler’s symphonies, whose magnificent excesses are of romantic nature. Grimm’s tales are too, even though their refined style suggests a more contemporary form.....Mahler’s music has to be used with enormous care, but it’s risk I’m keen to take”.


But in a’ballet’, say the ‘narrative’ 3-acter, in the Petipa era, the viewer would have the program feeding the viewer its synopsis: scene 1 the christening, scene 2 the debut, scene, 3 the evil fairy, etc.

Not so with Preljocaj; or if you will, with modern dance. Theater has its own telos. How do we know the deus ex machina, as the Greeks taught us?

OK, so far no synopsis. no big deal.

The opening scene depicts the first queen’s grim solitary birthing of her first daughter; immediately she dies. The king and retinue arrives, the king picks up the infant while the retinue disposes the cadaver.

The next scene shows the king playing with his daughter, the little Snow White, and with the transformation of time the king plays with the nubile Snow White who he leads into

the golden palace (remember Petipa’s Scene 2 the debut ?). Snow White and the king

ascend high in their thrones while below them pay deference the men and women of the court. (Immediately, visually we have some cues to discern (or not) some hoodies

on the street, some IBM suits back from lunch,some short skirts - ah youth- but no,, no

this is haute couture by JPG, the king in black crown and black garb and Snow White in white and bare footed.while the swains in court are dashing with leather boots and romantic pirate shirts and the women, barefooted and bedecked as in Times Square ie.


´Eventually the scene ends when the stepmother and her spider-like ‘cats’ visit the court (re: remember scene 4?) What happens when a dominatrix with 5 - inch heels and a whip visits the household? A ruckus.

The next scene has a bucolic setting with a about six young pairs gamboling,that is, skipping and frisking about. Snow White joined them. End of gamboling.

Following was the adagio of Snow White and the prince.I really liked all the double work of Shirai and Clemente throughout the ballet. The clarity and musicality with the prodigious technical refinement of the dancers wedded passion and classicism.

The question and answer period, after the Fri. performance, was hosted by a group of kind and linguistically affluent dancers. This scene was questioned by an audience member; Was the gamboling

suggested to indicate their sexuality or something else? A dancer responded that Preljocaj felt that the ballet needed it. Another question the viewers had was the costume of the Prince who was in ‘Spanish’ torero orange and pink (ie.bizarre)

After several ‘mirrors on the wall’ the stepmother gets a response that Snow White is the fairest of them all and sends three minions to kill SW and bring them her lungs and heart to eat (read Grimm).

The killers capture her but feel sorry for her and instead kill a deer.

Snow White ran and exhausted far from the palace, she falls asleep.

This was my favorite part of the ballet where Snow White meets the seven dwarves-aka monks aka miners. They are not described in the program, they are only depicted as miners They’re dressed like miners and they live like monks- platonic spirits of unsexual beings, just like monks right?

The set is like a quarry with cave-like openings. They mine all day and now they rappel to come home at night. The music is the Mahler where Klezmer tunes reside


What a spark of theatricality! The vertical wall where dancers transcend their limits and rise and fall and ascend like a flock of birds in an inverted V to klezmer tunes imagined by Mahler! Sheer genius. The camaraderie of the platonic idealists of the mining seven with each other and with their acquaintance of Snow White, with whom they’ve made their pal, is something to behold.

A circle of eight facing each other, they’re joy and handclaps and footstomps. They’re boy- scouts without any menacing, predatory adults. Preljocaj has created a beautiful scene, Bravo.

The poisoned apple is the pivot of the story, The wicked stepmother confronts Snow White and shoves the apple down her mouth.Time endures cruelly.. ..then death.

I don’t whether the next scene is Grimm’s fairy tale. I believe that it is Preljocaj’s

imagination.There is an apotheosis, where the dead mother of Snow White appears

(supernaturally )as a dea nutrix,the nourishing mother, (usuallytending the male infant). She lowers herself, embraces her daughter and leaves.

Following the apotheosis the miners came back and prepared a resting place for Snow White’s body.

Then the prince discovers the body.The double work that follows has my admiration,

although some viewers thought it too much like the entombment of Romeo and Juliet,

I have no reservations: the occasion suits it.The kiss demands it. Incredible adage.

There is a final ballabile in the golden palace where Snow White waltzes with her orange- pink- torero Prince. Snow White wears a crinoline dress and shoes! The ladies of the court wear some sort of amazonian helmets. Their purpose escapes me.They looked good and full of joy.

I forgot to mention some kind of catharsis, proper of greek theater.

Oh go ahead! Read it in Grimm.

Report card: Preljocaj.......A




*VICKY WANG is a student of the Community School of Ballet, Ann Arbor

She studies Grade 4 of Royal Academy of Dance. She is 9 years old.

Prejlocaj Ballet audition was by photograph and by costume fitting.

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