This weekend, one of the world’s most popular fairy tales will dance across the stage as part of Lincoln Center’s 2014 Spring Gala. But when it comes to Ballet Preljocaj’s “Snow White,” you might want to leave the kids at home. Angelin Preljocaj devised the show to embrace the story’s more thought-provoking complexities, such as the conflict of age and beauty, and worked with fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier on costumes that would help bring this unabashedly dark retelling to life. We spoke with the acclaimed choreographer to understand what inspired his “Snow White.”
Why does the story of Snow White appeal to you?
I am really interested in telling stories. I wanted to tell the real story of Snow White, not “the myth” or “the legend” of Snow White. In this tale, there is darkness and violence, and — in my show — even cruelty in some ways, but the Grimm brothers’ tales are filled up with these, too. “Snow White” contains objects that are wonderful for a choreographer’s imagination
How was working with a prolific designer like Gaultier on the costumes?
With “Snow White,” I wanted to give an enchanting, magical and fantastic piece. I think the fashion designer who embodies fancy and fantasy the best is Jean Paul Gaultier. He had to be the one to create the costumes, it was obvious! Each of his creations tells a story. These aren’t simply a dress or a sweater; these are characters.
He drew over 60 sketches in less than a week. He works relentlessly, quickly and impulsively. He is full of ideas, some of which may seem odd at first but are in reality extremely original and resourceful.
Snow White’s dress is spectacular: Its swaddling aspect represents the childish side of the character, while its double length and revealing silhouette allude to the transition to the condition of woman. The imposing volume of the Queen’s skirt allows the dancer to perform gestures [reminiscent of a] bullfighter’s, with its cape illustrating confrontation.
This story highlights themes of age and beauty, which women especially struggle with.
“Snow White” is the most contemporary fairy tale of all, because the beauty of today’s women makes the cross-generational conflict very sharp. 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 generational dispute, which is at the core of “Snow White,” is very modern and has a lot to do with the image of woman conveyed by magazines. Nowadays, some mothers fight against their age with cosmetic means. In becoming rivals with their own daughters, they somehow resist their emerging young beauty.
What do you hope audiences take away from this staging of "Snow White"?
The piece has already been around the world and has been performed over 200 times since its creation in 2008. Snow White’s legend meets no boundaries and, once again, I hope that the public of New York will be enchanted by the magical and romantic interlude that I’ve been willing to share with my dancers.