Winter’s Last Stand: An Enduring Snow Queen
Guest choreographer Michael Corder of the English National Ballet explains the background for this Czech production, which premiered Mar 3-4 at the State Opera:
“I only choreograph, really, because I love the music,” he began, when asked about his motivation. “The entire inspiration for the ballet was Prokofiev’s music.”
Corder was discussing music, movement, and motivation at length with artistic director of the Czech National Ballet, Petr Zuska, at a public discussion at Nová Scéna (The New Stage) Feb 25.
That inspiration needed just a few more international elements to become a full-length ballet. The music from Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev came mainly from his ballet, The Tale of the Stone Flower. Denmark’s Hans Christian Andersen wrote the story. And there is even a Czech connection: Corder’s original Snow Queen in the English National Ballet premiere in 2007 was prima ballerina Daria Klimentová.
“I was interested in dancers here [in Prague] because she’s such a fine dancer,” Mr Corder said, and the Czech National Ballet didn’t disappoint. “What has really been a pleasure is the integration of the company. The corps work as hard as the soloists and the principals. They take our notes and apply them right away.”
That hard work translated to a magical fairy tale that graced the stage of the State Opera for its Mar 4 premiere.
Excited whispers from young audience members fluttered through the air as the dancers twirled across the stage. Mark Bailey’s sets beautifully blend a storybook atmosphere with a clear sense of location.
The dancers brought both technique and personality to the premiere. Andrea Kramešová’s Gerda embodied innocence and youthful exuberance.
The animals were total scene-stealers, from the Snow Queen’s coquettish, flirtatious foxes – Alexandra Pera and Irina Burduja – to the skittish, graceful movement of Domenico di Cristo’s reindeer.
And the bold machismo of Guido Sarno’s gypsy boy and independent strength of Michaela Wenzelová’s gypsy girl infuse the wilderness party that opens Act III with an electric energy to keep the audience engaged.
When working with the dancers, Mr Corder focused on a few essential elements. “There are things that define British ballet and style: Purity, simplicity, a sense of music, and attention to detail in the line of the arabesque and the pointe work.”
You could almost see the dancers thinking, “Long lines; stretch through the fingertips,” as they tackled each arabesque and tour jeté [a turning leap with straight legs].
And when casting his Czech Snow Queen, the British choreographer looked for soloists who could live up to the legacy of their predecessor. “Daria Klimentová had a diverse, complete technique,” he recalls. “You need a ballerina with the ability to add their own impact on top of all that.”
Nikola Márová carries that weight, along with the 30,000 crystals decorating her costume, while tackling Mr Corder’s demanding choreography with power and evil elegance. You can see the delight in her face as she leaps onto Kay from behind, wrapping a leg around his neck, to close Act II.
Like the best fairy tales, The Snow Queen is a delight for ballet fans that will leave both parents and children equally enchanted.
Watch an excerpt here:
The next performances of The Snow Queen are Mar 18, 19, and 22, and then spring showings in May and June.
– Auburn Scallon, Opus Osm writer
Photo Credits: Top: Michal Štípa, Alina Nanu, Mathieu Rouaux, by Dasha Wharton; Matěj Šust, Nikola Márová, by Hana Šmějkalová; Giovanni Rotolo, by Dasha Wharton; Alina Nanu, by Martín Divišek. Video: The Czech National Ballet