By Hans Christian Anderson, adapted for Ballet by Martin Sierra. Victorian State Ballet. The Concourse, Chatswood. April 14 – 18, 2023
Reviewed : April 14, 2022
It’s always a treat when the Victorian State Ballet brings one of its productions to Chatswood. It’s also wonderful that local ballet students are invited to audition for the young ‘corps’. In this production thirty-three lucky young dancers – some advanced, some intermediate and some junior – ‘made the cut’ to play the Princes and Princesses of the Snow Queen’s entourage.
This is a great learning opportunity for those young performers. Not only do they learn some classic choreography, and get to wear to wear some beautiful costumes, but they also learn much about focus and production etiquette from the professional dancers, and the production crew. It’s certainly something they won’t forget. Nor will the many family members, friends and fellow student dancers who flock to the Concourse to see what has become a favourite, and relatively inexpensive, annual event.
The Snow Queen is based on one of Hans Christian Anderson’s famous fairy tales, in which an evil troll breaks a mirror that magnifies only the bad and ugly aspects of the people it reflects. The splinters of the mirror, blown all over the world by the wind, get into people’s eyes and freeze their hearts. Gerda and her young playmate Kai are dancing together when Kai is infected by an ice splinter. He runs away to the river where he is enchanted by the Snow Queen. Gerda searches for him and eventually saves him from the Snow Queen’s spell with a kiss. Kai and Gerda dance joyously and are blessed by the Snow Queen because their pure love has conquered evil.
In her search for Kai Gerda meets fortune tellers, two crows, gypsies, robbers and a captured reindeer as well as the snowflakes who guard the Snow Queen’s palace. This array of characters plays right into the hands of costume designers Jan Tredrea, Mandy West & Jill Kerr who juxtapose the glistening white of the snowflakes and the Snow Queen’s shimmery turquoise robe with green and gold, black and red, blue and yellow.
Artistic Director Martin Sierra himself uses atmospheric lighting and projected images to set the various scenes including the shattering magic mirror.
Michelle Cassar de Sierra cleverly introduces contemporary touches to her choreography, adding gentle moments of humour and piquancy to the fairy tale nature of the story. It is evident particularly in the acrobatic elegance of the troll which Tynan Woods performs with lithe energy and just a little sinister intent – characteristics that he sheds to become a strident robber and the princely Snow Cavalier.
As the Snow Queen, Elise May Watson-Lord is sophisticated grace with a touch of ice as she rules from her cold white palace. Watson-Lord brings a wealth of experience to this role, which she performs with vibrant poise.
Elise Jacques and Benjamin Harris delight as the naïve innocents, Gerda and Kai. They dance beautifully together, at the same time transmitting their childlike trust and gullibility.
Henry Driver and Cieren Edinger are the two crows who accompany Gerda on part of her search – and Josh Steinke delights as Bae, the lively, wide-eyed reindeer who directs her to Lapland.
This production shines, literally, as the glittering snowflakes, snow bees and their icy white Queen bewitch the audience with the poised control and structured grace that is always inspiring in balletic work.
The Snow Queen is another of Martin Sierra’s clever adaptations, produced and performed with all the joie de vivre we have come to expect from the Victorian State Ballet.