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Davis, California

Monday, April 15, 2024

U.S. debut of Blanche Neige at the Mondavi

Ballet Preljocaj’s Blanche Neige
March 17 at 7 p.m.
March 18 at 3 p.m.
General admission: $75 | $64 | $40, student admission: $37.50 | $32 | $20 (prices vary depending on seating)
Tickets can be purchased at the Mondavi Center Ticket Booth
Hours: Monday to Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.

In celebration of its 10-year anniversary, the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts will host the U.S. premiere of world-renowned Ballet Preljocaj’s Blanche Neige on March 17 and 18. Ballet Preljocaj, pronounced prezh-oh-kahzh, is France’s leading contemporary dance company.

Ballet Preljocaj’s version of Snow White will deviate from the Disney classic that many of us know and love so well. Instead, this contemporary romance — which was choreographed by famed choreographer Angelin Preljocaj, who will be at the pre-show gala on March 17 — is derived from the original story told by the Brothers Grimm, which is more graphic than its cartoon counterpart.  There will still be an evil queen, a beautiful heroine and dwarves, but this grown-up re-telling of Snow White touches on more mature themes and contains a bit of nudity as well.

Besides the breathtaking dancing that will take place, Blanche Neige will also feature giant and intricate sets designed by Thierry Leproust, a prominent set designer. The costumes, worn by the 26 dancers in the production, are created by Jean Paul Gaultier, the same person who designed Madonna’s infamous cone bras. The music is a selection of Gustav Mahler’s symphonies, well known for their extravagant sounds. The entire production is a collaboration between some of France’s most celebrated artists, all of whom are masters of their individual fields.

It took nearly three years to bring Blanche Neige to the Mondavi, according to Don Roth, executive director of the Mondavi. He had originally seen a video of the full-length ballet in 2009 when he was in France and was captivated instantly. He immediately started discussing with Ballet Preljocaj’s management the possibility of having Blanche Neige performed at the Mondavi. Roth, who has seen the live production of Blanche Neige, describes it as a “dark Snow White.”

“It’s like Oedipus in reverse. Instead of a child who wants to kill a parent, the Evil Queen is the parent who wants to kill Snow White,” Roth said.

On the technical aspects of the production, Roth noted that the dance still contains elements of traditional ballet dance techniques.

“They don’t dance in toe shoes,” Roth said. “The Evil Queen dances in these heels and it’s just amazing to watch. Gaultier did an amazing job with the costumes, and the ways the costumes move on the dancers are just incredible.”

Roth isn’t the only one who is raving about how astounding Blanche Neige will be. Zak Stelly-Riggs and Daniel Golden will be putting together the sets for Blanche Neige the week before its premiere. Stelly-Riggs is the master carpenter and head rigger, whilst Golden is the master electrician who coordinates with the artists to make sure that the lighting design is incorporated into the venue. Together, they both make sure that Mondavi has the right equipment and enough power necessary to put on a show that meets all the performers’ criteria.

“It’s a technically challenging piece to put on,” Golden said about the production. So far, the two have only corresponded with Blanche Neige’s set team via e-mail and phone calls about the space necessary for the sets. They haven’t seen the sets in real life yet, but they have a good idea of how they will look when they arrive because they have a lot of photos and blueprints by which to judge them.

“The show will take place on the Jackson stage, the main stage, which is 50 feet by 100 feet wide and it is 120 feet by 50 feet deep, so it’s a pretty big stage. It seats about 1,800 people,” Stelly-Riggs said. “There will be a number of drops and one big set piece. There will also be black curtains to split certain sets.

“Lighting-wise, it seems to be a dark show. This ballet is very complicated in contrast to other ballets that use muted lights and simple scenery,” Golden said.

However, the two are excited about the show.

“The Mondavi Center’s stage is huge, so it can definitely accommodate a production as big as Blanche Neige. But we’re really excited to work on something like this as we both love challenges, and this is definitely one of the more technically-challenged shows we’ve worked on,” Golden said.

Blance Neige will only have two performances at the Mondavi before going on its U.S. tour. Roth encourages UC Davis students to take up the chance to watch this once-in-a-lifetime performance, as it’s not likely in the near future that Blance Neige will be touring the U.S. again.

“I can’t imagine anybody who won’t enjoy this. It’s an incredibly accessible piece. I guarantee that everybody will love it.”

MICHELLE RUAN can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.



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