Today, when people hear the name “Snow White,” their minds are likely to go to the glossy Walt Disney film and not to the darker, more sinister source material. Carolina Ballet’s production of Snow White, in the adept hands of choreographer Zalman Raffael, is something like a happy medium. This beautiful ballet doesn’t shy away from ominous music or careful nods to the original tale, yet it’s not so dark that families or young children can’t enjoy it, and there certainly is much to enjoy here.
The ballet is staged in the wonderfully intimate Fletcher Opera Theater, which means each and every viewer is treated to a truly up-close-and-personal experience, one that is fully immersive and completely engaging from start to finish.
Speaking of the start, the performance opens with The Queen (Jan Burkhard) gazing into her magical mirror, one which glints and glimmers alluringly thanks to impressive lighting effects from Ross Kolman. The mirror goes beyond just being a prop, however. It’s also embodied by Margaret Severin-Hansen, who makes it a dimensional, deluding, and dangerous character, rather than just a mere object.
As the Queen grows more and more obsessed with the mirror and its messages, she directs her anger toward The Princess as Radiant as Snow, portrayed by the effervescent Courtney Schenberger. With a smile that goes on for days, Schenberger truly lives up to the “radiant” part of her character’s title. Her graceful movements create a princess that is sweet, pretty, innocent, and ultimately, strong, thanks to the modern, much-appreciated spin Raffael boldly places on the ending.
And, though some elements may be fresh and unexpected, this ballet does not neglect the classic features that make the fairy-tale version of this story so beloved. There is a dashing, brave prince (Kiefer Curtis), a high-leaping huntsman (Yevgeny Shlapko), and, of course, seven lovable gold miners (Kathleen Black, Mia Domini, Ayla O’Day, Jayson Pescasio, Luke Potgieter, Rachel Robinson, Bilal Shakur Smith) who infuse humor and joy into the production. There are also twinkling lights, an enchanted-looking forest, and all the sparkles and softness that one could wish for.
This ballet is a perfect blend of the magic and charm that dance-lovers yearn for and the grit and truth that modern storytelling demands. An experience like no other, it will change the way you think of fairy tales and leave a lovely, lasting impression.
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