Chamber Music Charleston and Ballet Evolution present The Snow Queen 

Classic Comes to Life

click to enlarge This is the third year Ballet Evolution has presented The Snow Queen, a tale a bit darker than your average holiday fluff

Photos courtesy Ballet Evolution

This is the third year Ballet Evolution has presented The Snow Queen, a tale a bit darker than your average holiday fluff

Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen might not be a traditional Christmas story, but that's part of what made it an appealing holiday show for Jonathan Tabbert, artistic director of Ballet Evolution. For the third year in a row, the company will bring Andersen's fairy tale to the stage through Tabbert's original choreography and live musical arrangements from Chamber Music Charleston. The performance runs this weekend at the Sottile Theatre.

"It is something that has more depth than a normal holiday show, and the themes that it taps into are very relatable," Tabbert says of The Snow Queen. "And some go deeper than, you know, small children may be able to comprehend in one viewing, but for adult audience members, there's a little more teeth to the story, which makes it nice for an older audience. There's still the glitz and glamour for the little ones to take away as well."

Andersen's tale centers on a magic mirror, created by an evil troll, that hides all the good in the world and instead emphasizes the bad. In an attempt to get into heaven, the troll and his underlings drop the mirror, which falls to earth and shatters into tiny pieces. The splinters from the mirror get stuck in the eyes and hearts of people, and they turn their hearts cold and make them see only the bad in people and things. One summer, a young boy named Kai gets the mirror's splinters lodged in his eyes and heart, and he is lured to the winter palace of the Snow Queen. His best friend, Gerda, goes on a journey to rescue him.

When asked why he was drawn to performing The Snow Queen during the holiday season, Tabbert says it came down to the tale's "overarching message."

"I think just the nature of the story being that kindness and love are always what's the answer," he says. "And the Snow Queen herself learns that love can melt even a frozen heart that was magically done to her. [She sees] that true love breaks that curse, and she's able to see true happiness again."

While no major changes have been implemented for this year's performance, some principal dancers will have new roles, and the choreography was re-evaluated at the start of rehearsals.

"It's definitely always a different process just depending on the cast. That's the largest change within this production," Tabbert says. "Just utilizing the different strengths of the dancers in each role is something that makes it new and different each year it's produced. One or two of the characters have repeat castings of people who have done it in prior seasons, but even for them, we like to go into the studio and tweak the choreography and give them renewed inspiration to ... keep them artistically fulfilled so that it's not stale for them."

Tabbert and Sandra Nikolajevs, president and artistic director of Chamber Music Charleston, closely collaborated on the orchestration for The Snow Queen, and the final arrangement features works from composers Antonín Dvorˇák, Ottorino Respighi, Darius Milhaud, Camille Saint-Saëns, Théodore Dubois, and Philippe Gaubert.

"The entire process took about six to eight months. We started by storyboarding the ballet. Then there were definitely some musical selections that I really wanted to use. Then a lot of it from there kind of evolved, and it was a very organic growth of the score," Tabbert says.

One of the main challenges for Nikolajevs was to take compositions that were originally written for a full chamber orchestra and rework them to be performed by a smaller chamber ensemble.

"There were a few things we took out, because the orchestration was going to be monumental. But Sandra worked some magic on them and did original arrangements for the ensemble," Tabbert says. "We are using a pretty large selection of different composers, and yet the sound and the quality of the music together just meshes so well. And that is also a huge testament to Sandra's talent, to put all of these into one score even though they weren't written by the same person but they complement each other."

In addition to Ballet Evolution's eight company dancers, The Snow Queen will showcase the talents of 50 local youth ballet dancers, whose roles vary depending on their age and ability.

"We have [dancers] as young as five all the way up to high schoolers," Tabbert says. "It's just a huge opportunity for children and students to be in that professional atmosphere and be alongside these artists that have trained their entire lives for this profession. And to be able to see the stage of that caliber is a really amazing opportunity."

Dancing onstage to live music will also be a unique experience for the younger performers, Tabbert says, as "that is something very unusual in our line of work."

"Very few companies use live music for all of their programming, so to have that opportunity is, for some of them, once in a lifetime," he says.


Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Classified Listings

Powered by Foundation   © Copyright 2019, Charleston City Paper   RSS