How About Them Apples?
Pacific Northwest Ballet School’s “Snow White”
Sunday, 18 March 2012
by Dean Speer
Snow White was this year’s annual storybook production by Pacific Northwest Ballet School which is geared toward fledgling ballet goers – to introduce them to the elements of classical ballet and the theatre – and all very successfully, indeed.
Bruce Wells is a facile and very good choreographer who knows how to make students look good...and he does. From the opening Tree Spirits to The Seven Dwarfs [who smartly make their entrance from the orchestra pit “mine”] to Snow herself, all were deployed to their fullest, made rich by the challenge of pulling together an hour-long familiar story.
Being familiar, particularly having pre-conceived notions from Disney about how the characters should visually look, Wells hit pay dirt with Ella Macy as Snow and especially the Evil Queen of Madeline DeVries whose gamy length and headdress and costume made her look preternaturally like the Queen of Disney infamy. It also helps that she has extension and technique to boot.
Playing a double role was Arielle Martin as Snow’s mother – shown in a prologue – and as the Spirit of the Mirror. A very clever use of this persona.
Butterfly and her Cavalier were very strongly danced by the bright Jahna Frantziskonis and Jordan Veit [whose line just keeps getting better and better].
Wells inserts group dances, pas de deux, and solos presented in the context of traditional balletic hierarchy – corps de ballet, demi-soloists groups, soloists, and principals so we really do get a very nice, full experience.
He also pulled triple-duty – as choreographer, the King and also as narrator and his choice of using French composer Massenet’s music was inspired and each choice fit well.
They also enjoyed the terrific scenic theatrical elements with a set that turned to become both the outside and inside of the Dwarfs’ cottage, a full backdrop, and a court set that, when wheeled in also made a great - and very theatrical entrance for the Evil Queen. Loved it.
I was pleased and impressed to see how “on” both the dancers and audience were, happy that the hard-working students enjoyed many rounds of spontaneous and sincere – not merely polite – applause all in the right places.
Alternating performances of their Company New Works program with these storybook ballets each Spring over the course of two weeks is efficient and intelligent programming and is one that we look forward to in 2013.