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Ballet Preljocaj’s ‘Snow White’ premieres at the Sydney Opera House

Ballet Preljocaj’s 'Snow White' premieres at the Sydney Opera House.
Ballet Preljocaj’s 'Snow White' premieres at the Sydney Opera House.

The French dance company Ballet Preljocaj will be performing its world-acclaimed work, Snow White, at the Sydney Opera House from 6 – 10 June 2018.

Ballet Preljocaj's 'Snow White'. Photo by Jean-Claude Carbonne.

Ballet Preljocaj’s ‘Snow White’. Photo by Jean-Claude Carbonne.

Inspired by the original Brothers Grimm fairytale of 1812, the Company Director, Angelin Preljocaj, has created an erotically charged interpretation of the fairytale. Combined with the S/M aesthetics of Jean-Paul Gaultier costumes, this promises to be an adult Snow White that is definitely not Disney.

Dance Informa had the opportunity to speak to the Sydney Opera House Head of Contemporary Performance Olivia Ansell, who explains why this dance work is taking the world by storm in terms of contemporary dance.

“This is contemporary dance like no other,” she says. “It is a story ballet, so there is narrative, but it’s not traditional at all. It remains experimental while sticking to the rules of the story. Somehow, Preljocaj manages an artful fusion of classical and contemporary.”

Ballet Preljocaj's 'Snow White'. Photo by Jean-Claude Carbonne.

Ballet Preljocaj’s ‘Snow White’. Photo by Jean-Claude Carbonne.

The ballet premiered in 2008, at the Lyon Biennale and was inspired by Preljocaj’s contemporary reading of the tale’s symbolism: “I have followed the version by the Grimm brothers, with just a few personal variations based on my own analysis of the symbols in the tale. 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 understanding of symbols belongs to adults as well as children; it’s for everyone, and that’s why I like fairy tales.”

The dark and edgy imagining of Snow White is enhanced by Jean Paul Gaultier’s psychologically charged leather and BDSM costume styling, while Thierry Leproust’s set is both innovative and dramatic, a modern minimalism that pays tribute to the tale’s original symbolism.

Ballet Preljocaj's 'Snow White'. Photo by Jean-Claude Carbonne.

Ballet Preljocaj’s ‘Snow White’. Photo by Jean-Claude Carbonne.

“The Court scene, with the King and Queen, is gorgeous,” explains Ansell, “imposing with a high sense of drama.” The Seven Dwarfs are not what you might expect either, arriving in an unorthodox manner.

Preljocaj creates plenty of surprises, incorporating Merce Cunningham-style floor rolls and even an unexpected burst of Mazurka, recalling the influence of Cunningham’s inter-disciplinary and unorthodox approach.

Imagine a classical ballet meeting Cirque du Soleil in a S/M dungeon, and you start to get the gist of the ballet’s contrasting elements. Driven by Mahler’s classical symphony, Ballet Preljocaj turns the story of Snow White upside down before putting it back together in an unexpected and bewitching way.

Ballet Preljocaj's 'Snow White'. Photo by Jean-Claude Carbonne.

Ballet Preljocaj’s ‘Snow White’. Photo by Jean-Claude Carbonne.

The ballet will include over 20 dancers from the French company, as well as utilising Sydney dancers, including three young dancers sharing the role of “little baby Snow White”.

Ballet Preljocaj has a number of community initiatives at home in Aix-en Provence, and is keen to involve the local dance community when touring. For a number of lucky Sydney dance students, there will be a Contemporary Master class on 8 June, when 30 Sydney full-time contemporary dance students will be invited to participate.

Ballet Preljocaj’s Snow White runs at the Sydney Opera House from 6 – 10 June 2018. For tickets, visit www.sydneyoperahouse.com/events/whats-on/dance/2018/ballet-preljocaj-snow-white.html

By Elizabeth Ashley of Dance Informa.

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