Snow White – Ballet Preljocaj: Sadler’s Wells, 12 May 2012

S’no go

“Mirror, Mirror on the wall, does my bum look big in this?” Ballet Preljocaj get to the nub of the matter in Snow White.

The idea of a ballet of Snow White based on the original nasty fairy-tale gathered by the Brothers Grimm is a good one. In this attempt, Patrizia Telleschi packs a mean punch as a latex-clad dominatrix Queen; her accompanying cats are wonderfully creepy, her dance-to-death is quite unnerving and her ball-gag apple duet with her virginal step-daughter is a genuinely disturbing display of human abuse.

Alas choreographer Angelin Preljocaj has surrounded these pinprick horrors with an awful lot of cartoon-ish camp that succeeded in gelling not-at-all with Mahler’s overwhelmingly profound music. The two-dimensional characters make a nonsense of the psycho-sexual intentions that are constantly hammered at you like a paddle to a sub’s bare backside. Everyone’s in it for the power and the sex and that’s about as deep as it goes.

While the dancing itself is fine, the stilted choreographic language doesn’t sustain the complex world it inhabits. Worse still, there’s little emotional connection between characters which results in a lot of people moving around the stage for no apparent reason other than to try and show off Jean Paul Gaultier’s (disappointingly unfetching) costumes.

There are good moments; Snow White’s growth spurts are neatly done, the dwarves/miners aerials give an interesting perspective on things and there are some dramatic lifts and throws. Nagisa Shirai does the best with what must be a physically demanding role but she never gave Snow White any personality; she remained a cipher for other people’s desires and emotions which made for a cold central performance where it really needed some heart. And not just a topless deer’s heart.

Gerard Davis

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