The Snow Queen, Hans Christian Andersen's bleak but beautiful coming of age story, is one of the Danish storyteller's more sexually charged fables. Exploring with frightening ambiguity the surprising personal revelations that come with the onset of adolescence, it follows the very different paths two childhood friends, the boy Kay and the girl Gerta, take to reach maturity and be reunited with each other. From this odd little fable, choreographers Noel MacDuffie and Angela Jones, along with composer John Lasala, have created a highly personal dance-theatre piece that brims with the tension, confusion, energy, and charm of nascent sexuality simply by exposing the fiery heart beating under the icy skin of Andersen's 19th-century tale, and delicately adding an uneasy, contemporary spin of their own that is more true to life than the neatly wrapped up resolutions of the traditional fairy tale form.
With a seemingly endless supply of evocative visual imagery at their command, MacDuffie and Jones's choreography is by turns jolting, playful, sinister, and heartbreaking, and always, always pulsing with the sensual energy that is the driving force behind their interpretation. Lasala's vibrant, eclectic score is always sensitive to the icy hot moods of the story, not afraid to sacrifice melody for dramatic thrust. It is also ravishing; a witty and lush marriage of romance and minimalism.
As a dance piece, there was no set to speak of, although an amazing visual magic accomplished with an inspired use of white and black spandex provided an almost primal sensual aura. MacDuffie supplied richly atmospheric lighting, while Lisa Clark's costumes were inventive, colorful, and perfectly aligned to character, situation, and above all, ease of movement.Jones danced the title role with an astonishing blend of supple grace, ice-cold demeanor and voracious sexuality, and MacDuffie caught Kay's growing sexual awareness with a keenly observed mix of boyish awkwardness and manly pride. Erica Lachenmeier likewise infused Gerta's blossoming sense of self with a concurrently blossoming sense of power. Osamu Uehara and Michele Knudsen danced the roles of hilariously dysfunctional Prince and Princess with delightful hauteur, and Yayoi Kambara was a burst of raw energy as a Robber Girl who seduces Gerta with her unrestrained, earthy sex appeal.
A program note announcing the "final" version of The Snow Queen is to be produced in January 2000 at the Connolly Center indicated that this is still a work in progress. Blackouts and fadeouts between scenes tended to interrupt the flow, giving an episodic feel to the evening, and the final confrontation between Gerta, Kay, The Snow Queen and the Robber Girl could use a bit of trimming or clarification in its portrayal of shifting allegiances. But the very real accomplishments that are present show the "progress" already made to be substantial. For the creators have cut through to the very soul of Andersen's work, rediscovering and reinventing this classic fairy tale with a shimmering theatricality that is illuminating, exciting, and finally touching with its belief in its own self-knowing power.
(Also featuring Antonia Ferraro, Elizabeth Gutierrez, and Vanessa Paige.)
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Copyright 1999 Doug DeVita