A new production by the Vienna Festival Ballet has just started its UK tour. The story is that of Snow White from the brothers Grimm collection of fairy tales, now more familiar from the Disney animation and various pantomimes based on it.
Choreographer Barry McGrath defines the story of a vain-glorious queen, the step-daughter whose youthful beauty she envies and seeks to destroy, and the forest-workers who come to Snow White's aid with a deft mixture of solos, pas de deux and group dances. The music, from various sources, has been compiled and edited by Alan Lisk.
There's an overall simplicity, occasionally bordering on naiveté, to the staging. McGrath's choreography is closer to Bournonville and Saint-Léon than to Petipa, but this suits the theme as well as the format of the two-act ballet – though this is a short one. The men are given some applause-catching jumps and turns and the two main women have steps in their solos which show their contrasted characters.
Michaela Griffin is a lyrical Snow White with an elegant arabesque; her pas de deux with Miguel Piquer's Huntsman/Prince involve well-executed turns and jumps. As the Queen, Emily-Joy Smith oozes arrogance and frustrated desires with every imperious gesture; she literally throws herself onto Piquel during their confrontation after the ball.
As huntsmen go, Piquel – who shows off some spectacular jumps in his final solo – suggests someone who is more than a simple verderer. Then there are the dwarves, earthy creatures with bucolic dances to match, and some nicely differentiated party-goers, not to mention the evil spirits who help the Queen as she perfects her poison-cauldron brew.
The music is pre-recorded, standard these days for smaller-scale touring companies. Its level, judging by the performance in Clacton which I saw, needs to be monitored. There's an uncomfortable point at which loudness tips over into distracting distortion.