Auckland Arts Festival
Snow White, Ballet Preljocaj
Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Aotea Centre
Within many folk stories are themes of sexuality and violence, the presence of evil and the corruption of the pure of heart. So it is with Snow White where the wicked stepmother is obsessed with the beauty and purity of the young woman.
In Ballet Preljocaj’s stunning dance version of the tale these themes are played out in a dazzling production with an intense physicality, raw passion and an underlying misogyny. Music dance and design are used to create an electrifying and memorable work .
The ballet follows the birth of Snow White, her presentation at court and the wooing by suitors followed by a picaresque wandering where she is assaulted by woodsmen, befriended by the Seven dwarves / Miners, rescued by her Prince and dispatches the stepmother.
But this is a very dark telling of the story which begins with the Queen (Lea De Natale) struggling across the stage, wreathed in ground mist to die giving birth to Snow White.
This dark and menacing opening sets the tone for much of the ballet which contrasts with some of the more whimsical and colourful sequences of the work such as the court scene which not only features lavish dancing but also exotic costumes created by Jean Paul Gaultier.
In the court scene we also meet The Prince danced by Antoine Dubois performing some dramatic moves and then later in the ballet he performs a pas de deux with Snow White deftly handling her limp, lifeless body.
Nuriya Nagimova as the Stepmother is attired in one of the designers more elaborate costumes, a dominatrix outfit of latex bustier, thigh-high high heels, and a voluminous skirt all of which meant there is not much dancing but some elaborate posing.
She was cleverly used in several sequences contemplating a huge magic mirror which allowed her to see her reflection as well as see where Snow White was to be found.
She made for an impressive presence and in one scene where she has ditched the elaborate gear, viciously drags Snow White across the stage forcing a poisoned apple into Snow White’s mouth in an intertwined, menacing dance.
Mirea Delogu dancing the role of Snow White floated through the ballet like an ethereal presence, almost untouched by the events which impact on her. Her dancing was fluid and sinuous and with her Greco Roman virginal costume she was like a minor goddess only just inhabiting the physical world.
One of the highlights was the Seven Dwarves / Miners who perform an elaborate dance, abseiling like spiders on the surface of a wonderful rock face designed Thierry Leproust. His others sets created marvellous backgrounds to the action particularly the forest scene.
There were other beautifully orchestrated sequences such as the scene where the dead queen swooped down on a wire to pick up the dead Snow White, resurrecting her.
There was also some clever animated cavorting by the evil Queen’s two catlike assistants and the appearance of a deer who is slaughtered by the huntsman was a surreal apparition in the midst of the forest.
The dancers manage the inventive choreography of Angelin Preljocaj superbly his mix of classical ballet, court dance and contemporary resulting in a stylish and invigorating display.
While the dancing was superb, at times it was difficult to tell whether it was the dancers or the music which was making the emotional impact. For the most part they were dancing to the symphonic work of Gustav Mahler whose work is angst ridden, expressing both moments of joy as well as despair.
Michele Anne De May, Jaco van Dormael, Kiss & Cry Collective
ASB Waterfront Theatre
In the darkened theatre at the beginning of Cold Blood we are told that we are not in a theatre that we are there to dream and the voice counts us down to a state of hypnosis – and so the dreams begin.
These are all seen on the large screen which dominates the stage . Beneath it the group of performers and technicians armed with cameras and a series of miniature sets – rooms, cityscapes motorways create imagined worlds and events.
Cold Blood is a meditation on death, presenting seven specific deaths which range from the comic to the tragic - a man choking on a clip while undoing a bra strap with his teeth, a plane crash, and an astronaut losing consciousness in space.
For each of these deaths we become immersed in the action where fingers provide the action as they take the on the activities of characters,- walking, dancing, pole dancing. In an early sequence disembodied floating hands responding to music, - conducting, swaying and playing instruments.
Some of the sequences are intimate and sensual, the camera tracking over a man’s hand caressing a woman’s body, other are dramatic with the launch of a model space rocket. There is a gruesome blood spattering death in a car wash as well as the brilliant acting (of fingers) with a Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers dance display along with a mesmerising Busby Berkley routine to the tune On Moonlight Bay.
At another level Cold Blood is about reality and illusion, about the nature of theatre and the willing suspension of disbelief. We see the action on the screen, but we can also see the actors and camera operators creating that fiction. These actors and technicians are like the black clad Koken in Noh Theatre, organising and manipulating events.
The images we see are captivating and intriguing – the panning across a night time city, a bombing raid and firestorm, a tracking scene through a series of rooms where doors open to reveal new rooms and we realise that each of the model rooms is being replaced by another to give a sense of a long tracking shot.
For just over an hour the audience is transported to another world of perception and then in the closing minutes as we focus on fingers dancing to Ravel’s Bolero the camera turns, focussing on the audience and we see ourselves as part of the imagined world.