I wasn't quite sure what to expect from "Snow White," a ballet performed by Pacific Northwest Ballet's School, rather than by the professional company, specifically for an audience of families and children. Would it be interactive? Or a tedious showcase of every single student dancer?
In fact, it was a rather delightful spectacle. Choreographed by Bruce Wells, the story follows Disney lines, with the addition of some tree spirits and butterflies to get that corps de ballet in there somewhere. (An adorable side note: when the tree spirits appeared the second time around, a small girl in front of me said, "What are those?")
Snow White is born to the King and Queen, but the Queen dies in childbirth. The King remarries and the new Queen (Madeline DeVries) orders Snow White (Elle Macy) killed by the Huntsman. Instead, he takes her into the forest where she lives happily with Seven Dwarfs, until the Queen discovers her again.
The Queen poisons her with an apple but the enchantment is broken by the kiss of a prince, danced by Andy Garcia. In her anger, the Queen tries to destroy her magic mirror but is instead trapped inside it.
Everyone else lives happily ever after. The King, played by Bruce Wells, provides narration of the story for the ballet. For adults, the narration is annoying. but I suspect for small children it's helpful.
Costumes, done by PNB's Costume Shop, were truly lovely for the production, from flowing greenery for the tree spirits to beautiful autumn-toned robes for Snow White's Court. Snow White was in the easily recognized Disney costume of yellow skirt, blue bodice and red ribbon. In contrast, the Evil Queen's court was in crisp black and white, with the Evil Queen in a glittering crown and sleek gown.
The set (designed by Edith Whitsett) and lighting (designed by Randall G. Chiarelli) were simple and effective, with a mobile little hut for the Seven Dwarfs that could be easily spun from inside to outside. The mirror prop was particularly effective, with the spirit of the mirror (Arielle Martin) dancing behind and through it, then allowing it to frame Snow White off in the woods as the fairest of them all.
The dancing was quite nice, simple and nothing too challenging for the student dancers, but well performed. Only the butterfly corps was slightly off in places, but those were the youngest of the dancers. The Seven Dwarfs were fun and colorful, and their meeting dance with Snow White was lovely. The Butterfly soloist, Jahna Frantziskonis, performed with a bright and breezy cleanness of line with her Cavalier, Jordan Veit.
Snow White's Court and the Tree Spirits were notable in their dancing, keeping their lines crisp, and dancing as a unit.
Two especially effective scenes stand out: When the Evil Queen and her courtiers search through the forest for Snow White, they move in a seething mass of darkness and flashing searchlights while Snow White sits all unaware in her safe little hut.
Also quite magical is earlier when the first Queen sits and sews by her window watching the snow fall while dreaming of her daughter of the future .
Booster seats are provided and there seemed to be a paper crown-making seminar happening before the performance began. The show is short -- only an hour -- the plot is well-known and the costumes are colorful, which makes this an ideal way to introduce children to the ballet, while giving the student dancers valuable performance experience.
There was a full house when I attended. I would very much recommend the show for families with children. Adults who have low tolerance for ballet in general might also enjoy the short performance time and the easily followed story line.
"Snow White" runs through March 25 at Pacific Northwest Ballet’s McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St. in Seattle. For info or tickets, call 206-441-2424 or visit www.pnb.org.