Once Upon a Time, in a land called The Power Center…
Photo: A scene in Snow White by Ballet Preljocaj.
Every great story rests upon a conflict of good and evil. As children, we might encounter lessons from this kind of conflict through fairy tales, morals and legends. We hear frightening tales with themes of greed, lust, disobedience, and consequences that most often resolve with the poetic justice of a happily-ever- after ending. These age-old tales are an imaginative vehicle for children to relate to the dark side of human nature and to understand the power of choice and free will.
Fairy tales are not just for children however. There’s been an increase in fairy-tale prime time TV, ABC’s Once Upon a Time and NBC’s Grimm, for example, as well as a surge in live-action movies, Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman, to name a couple. As adults, we still love these stories and we still relate to their symbols and themes.
UMS is presenting two artists whose work is influenced by fairy tales: Robert Lepage’s The Andersen Project and Snow White re-staged by Ballet Preljocaj.
The Andersen Project is inspired by the life of Hans Christian Andersen and highlights the fairy tale “The Dryad,” which is set in nineteenth century Paris and follows a young dryad who lives within chestnut tree on the outskirts of the city. The dryad longs to see the Paris she hears about in the stories of those who travel past her. When her wish is granted, she is moved the heart of the city, but her happiness there is short-lived. As Her true desire is not for the city, but for the freedom of movement, it turns out. When this wish is granted, it comes with a heavy cost. Read the whole story.
The Andersen Project also references Andersen’s “The Shadow.” In “The Shadow,” a man loses his own shadow. One night, it returns, knocking on his door and appearing almost human. The shadow grows richer and fatter, while the man grows poorer and weaker. In fact, the man is so ill that his shadow proposes a trip to a health resort, on the condition that the shadow can act as the master. At the resort, the shadow meets a princess, and later when the two are about to be marry, the shadow offers the man a position within the castle if he agrees to become his own shadow permanently. In the end, the secret swap is revealed and the consequences are deadly. Read the whole story.
We interviewed The Andersen Project’s lead actor Yves Jacques. Start at 3:16 mark to learn about how old ways of storytelling influenced director Robert Lepage’s construction of this project.
Snow White may be a more familiar story for most. Choreographer Angelin Preljocaj explains that his narrative ballet is not the myth or legend of Snow White, but the story of Snow White herself. He follows the Grimm brothers’ version version but adds small variations. The wicked stepmother is the central character of the tale. He examines her through her narcissistic determination not to give up on seduction and on her role as a woman, even if this means sacrificing her stepdaughter. Do you need a Snow White refresher? Read the whole story.
We are living during a climatic time in history and our choices can be felt globally thanks to technology. Is it any wonder that artists are turning to the world of fairy tales to highlight the fight between good and evil or the power of choice? Fairy tales allow us to reach into our imagination and to examine the good and evil that reside in all of us.
Why do you think fairy tales are on the rise? What are your favorite fairy tales?
11/12 Dance Series
The UMS Dance Series includes four events in Ann Arbor’s Power Center. The series begins with the Mark Morris Dance group performing two nights of new repertory. Two companies make their UMS debuts: Taiwan’s Cloud Gate Dance Theatre with Water Stains on the Wall and Random Dance, a company started by Wayne McGregor, whose groundbreaking collaborations across dance, film, music, visual art, and science are evident in the company’s presentation of FAR. Finally, Ballet Preljocaj’s production of Snow White, set to music by Gustav Mahler and featuring costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier, closes the dance season.
Subscription packages go on sale to the general public on Monday, May 9, and will be available through Friday, September 17. Current subscribers will receive renewal packets in early May and may renew their series upon receipt of the packet. Tickets to individual events will go on sale to the general public on Monday, August 22 (via www.ums.org) and Wednesday, August 24 (in person and by phone). Not sure if you’re on our mailing list? Click here to update your mailing address to be sure you’ll receive a brochure.
Mark Morris Dance Group
Friday & Saturday, September 23 & 24, 8 pm
Mark Morris has changed the way that audiences see modern dance, with unique artistry that reflects a profound and sophisticated love of music. His company of exuberant dancers lives up to its reputation of wit, grace, and a refined musicality that is further reinforced by Morris’s use of live musicians in every performance. These two performances feature new Morris repertoire.
Excursions (Barber’s Excursions for Piano, Op. 20)
Festival Dance (Hummel Piano Quartet)
Socrates (Erik Satie’s Socrates for tenor and piano)
Water Stains on the Wall
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre
Lin Hwai-min, artistic director
Friday, October 21, 8pm
Saturday, October 22, 8pm
Trained in tai chi, meditation, Chinese opera movement, modern dance, and ballet, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre performs a rich repertoire with roots in Asian myths, folklore, and aesthetics, all infused with a contemporary perspective. For this long-awaited UMS debut, Cloud Gate presents Hwai-min’s newest work, Water Stains on the Wall. “Water stains on the wall” is a popular metaphor that represents the highest state in the aesthetics of Chinese calligraphy. Hwai-min and dancers take off from this metaphor and create and abstract work of beauty and magic that stands sublimely on its own.
Wayne McGregor, artistic director
Friday, February 17, 8 pm
Random Dance was founded in 1992 and became the instrument upon which Wayne McGregor evolved his drastically fast and articulate choreographic style. The company became a byword for its radical approach to new technology, incorporating animation, digital film, 3D architecture, electronic sound, and virtual dancers into the live choreography. In FAR, cutting edge design is fused with choreography made from a radical cognitive research process. FAR “talks about the Enlightenment’s fascination with the working of the mind and the dissection of the body…draw[ing] to a close with…the utmost tenderness and finality.” (The Times, London)
Angelin Preljocaj, artistic director
Thursday, April 19, 7:30 pm
Friday, April 20, 8 pm
Saturday, April 21, 8 pm
After more than a decade since its UMS debut, Ballet Preljocaj (pronounced prezh-oh-kahzh) returns with its production of Snow White. Angelin Preljocaj has created a work for all 26 dancers of his company, setting the Grimm brothers’ version of the fairytale to the most beautiful scores of Gustav Mahler’s symphonies for this romantic contemporary ballet. With costumes designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, this production of Snow White is sure to shake up those who have grown up with only the Disney version at their disposal.
Return to the complete chronological list.