Fairy Tales: BalletLORENT’s Snow White

There’s just something about ballet and fairy tales which go together, and BalletLORENT are really flaunting it! Two years ago, I was mesmerised by their production of ‘Rapunzel.’ So when I saw a new show listed in my local theatre’s brochure, I was straight down to the ticket office.
This time, BalletLORENT chose to adapt ‘Snow White.’ Like their Rapunzel show, the scenario was written by Carol Ann Duffy and the whole thing was a pretty, Gothic, energetic delight.

I was able to attend a pre-show talk, where the director, Liv Lorent, talked about why she chose Snow White and her creative decisions. Lorent said that often she can ‘see’ characters in her dancers, and this inspires the stories she picks. The choreography must also reflect each character and feel right for them in that moment. There’s no point in putting in a lot of impressive moves if they don’t match the situation or personality of the character; storytelling is key to the whole process, and the dancing should develop organically.
BalletLORENT Snow White
One bite is enough. Image from Cast in Doncaster.

When researching Snow White, Lorent said the most interesting thing she learned was that in the Grimms’ original version of the story, it was Snow White’s real mother and not a stepmother who wanted her killed. Outside of folklore circles, not many people know this version of the story. I love that Lorent used it in her ballet, because it gives a stronger dynamic. It’s easy to say a stepmother dislikes her stepdaughter and misses her deceased husband, but to say a biological mother hates her daughter to the point of poisoning her is intense! Also, it brings in some family values. Throughout, clear that Snow White has inherited her mother’s vanity. This makes the ending scene (where the Queen gives her daughter the doll she was making at the beginning) much more chilling – almost like she’s passing the torch.

Aside from the mother, other elements of the original story also remain intact – the tight laces and poisoned comb which come before the apple, seven dwarfs (or in this case, hunchbacked miners) who live in the forest, and even the Queen having to dance in red-hot shoes as a repentance for her wickedness.

The programme contains a booklet with Carol Ann Duffy’s version of Snow White written for BalletLORENT, which is a lovely thing to keep as a souvenir. Most theatre programmes get recycled or shoved in a box, but this one can sit proudly in the fairy tales section of my bookshelf and no doubt be re-read in the future. The artwork is beautiful, too!

Snow White Sam Zuppardi
Cover for the story booklet. Artwork by Sam Zuppardi.

What I loved most was when Lorent talked about making her shows for a family audience. She said that when working with fairy tales, she realised that if she took the adult content out then they would work for all age groups. But this was something which had to be consciously done. Fairy tales were not originally meant for children. They have to be moulded to accommodate different consumers.

Snow White BalletLORENT
The Queen offers Snow White the apple

I’m no dance expert (or even amateur!), but I thoroughly enjoyed Snow White for a number of reasons. Visually, it was very warm and colourful to watch, and the story was a fresh take but lost none of the original charm. If this show happens to be coming to a theatre anywhere near you, then I definitely recommend going to see it. If not, then check out BalletLORENT’s website and YouTube for some stunning images and videos of their work.


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Amelia Starling is a writer and folklorist. She graduated from the University of Winchester with a degree in Creative Writing, and is Senior Editor for Folklore Thursday. She loves travelling and collecting stories, and spent 15 months living in Japan doing this alongside teaching English. Amelia blogs about folklore and fairy tales at The Willow Web. You can follow her on Twitter @amyelize.

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