Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company’s ‘Snow White’
is delightful and fun
By Adrienne Warber
West Michigan ballet fans are discovering the great talent of the young dancers in Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company, who thrive under the direction of Junior Company Artistic Director Attila Mosolygo. Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company productions are starting to sell out almost as quickly as the professional company. The Junior Company’s production of “Snow White” was highly successful, with four sold out shows on March 4-6 at Peter Martin Wege Theatre. The Junior Company also gave a special performance of “Snow White” to a full house of Muskegon County elementary students and their families at the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts on March 7.
Fairy tales are a favorite subject for people of all ages, and the classic story of “Snow White” worked charmingly as a narrative ballet. Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company Artistic Director Attila Mosolygo choreographed “Snow White,” and created a production that smoothly told the story in an entertaining manner with some truly lovely dance numbers. Mosolygo’s choreography drew the audience into the story so that they connected with the characters. He skillfully gave each character particular mannerisms through the dance movements, which made the story book characters more real to the audience. This version of “Snow White” brought out the many complex layers of the original Brothers Grim tale. Through the well-executed dance numbers, the audience felt Snow White’s sadness over the loss of her mother, her happy friendships with the seven dwarves and the forest creatures, the evil queen’s jealousy, and the joy of Snow White and her Prince as they fall in love.
The set, designed by Mosolygo and Stage Manager Mellissa Slack, consisted of projections on one large screen backdrop, and a series of props for various scenes. Lighting effects and projections were used to create scenes. Mosolygo and Slack also designed the lighting effects, while Michael Auer and Krystle Formsma created the projections in the production. All of these effects worked well to create the mood for each scene. One particularly well-done projection showed the seven dwarfs’ journey home in a shadow effect on the backdrop.
Clare Gardeski and Melissa did a good job on the costumes, which followed traditional “Snow White” style. The costumes were colorful and detailed. The forest animals were adorable. Each of the seven dwarf characters were recognizable. The cloaked figures of the mirror characters were suitably menacing. The evil queen as a witch was a great costume and makeup job.
Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company dancers gave a strong performance both in classical ballet technique and acting skills. This student cast gave a professional level performance on Saturday, March 5, that was both visually beautiful and enjoyable.
Clare Schellenberg played a lovely Snow White, with the right mix of sweetness and enthusiasm characteristic of the fairy tale character. Schellenberg danced with grace and precision in her technique. She also demonstrated strong acting skills that helped the audience connect to Snow White as a person who had to deal with many challenges before finding her happy ending.
Another noteworthy performance was that of Elin Escobar Forsberg, who played young Snow White. The young performer perfectly matched Schellenberg’s movements as the adult Snow White told the Prince about her childhood. It was through Forsberg’s performance that the audience witnesses Snow White’s mother’s death, and feels her sadness.
Patrick Lennon played a dashing Prince, and supported Schellenberg’s Snow White perfectly. Lennon danced with artistry and athleticism. When the Prince first sees the Snow White and falls in love, he conveyed the right amount of sorrow and reverence. Lennon also demonstrated great professionalism when dealing with a wardrobe malfunction. When his crown started to slide off his head during the pas de deux with Snow White, he threw the crown off his head in such a smooth manner that it looked like it was a part of the choreography. He gave a strong performance as the Prince. Lennon and Schellenberg danced beautifully together.
Jazzi Conway-Westers played a convincing Evil Queen. Conway-Westers and her mirror minions were quite menacing. Her performance showed her jealousy over Snow White’s beauty, her ruthless pursuit to kill Snow White, and her rage when she failed. Some of Mosolygo’s most clever staging were evident in Conway-Westers’ numbers. For example, the eight cloaked figures who portrayed the mirror became active parts of her spells, sometimes bending together to form an altar or to create some other type of magic like helping the Queen transform into the Witch. It was quite a moment when Conway-Westers’ Evil Queen disappears into the black cloaked figures and Noelle-Ashley De Nooy’s Witch emerges. De Nooy did a great job switching between the high agile leaps of the young Evil Queen in disguise and the slow, hunched walk of the elderly Witch.
The dancers portraying the seven dwarfs all did an excellent job. Ella Rose Lennon played Doc. Grace Jones was cast as Grumpy. Celeste Lopez-Keranen portrayed Sleepy. Anneke Avery was Sneezy. Payton Field played Bashful. Julia Rudlaff portrayed Happy. Bearenger Petrella played Dopey. They each danced with strong technique and demonstrated great acting skills to portray the distinct mannerisms of each character. There was humor and fun in the dance numbers featuring the dwarfs.
The audience gave the Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company cast a standing ovation at the end of the Saturday evening performance. This audience consisted of families with children, couples on dates and individual dance fans. A number of audience members were new to Grand Rapids Ballet. Grand Rapids Ballet and Grand Rapids Ballet School are starting to reach a wider audience within the West Michigan community. More people are discovering that Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company can produce a show every bit as entertaining as a professional level show.
Originally published on Examiner.com on March 8, 2016