“The Snow Maiden” a fine winter’s tale in ballet

Arts / Article

The Dance Institute at The University of Akron is re-adapting Alexander Ostrovsky’s Russian fairy tale, “The Snow Maiden” to have it fit a mid-winter setting.

Originally the story ballet was set in a Russian forest as peasants celebrate the turn of a new year, and thus a new beginning. The idea is the same, just less emphasis on the beginning of the New Year since the ballet will appear later in the month.

Not to worry. This time the focus is on villagers wrought with cabin fever that come outside in the bitter cold anyway to have fun together.

Everyone is filled with hope for a new beginning, including a childless couple that desperately wants a child. The Snow Queen appears to them and creates a daughter out of snow with the caveat that the young girl cannot (as the fairies who populate this extraordinary world admonish) wear warm clothing despite the parents’ fear for her health during the dark and bleak midwinter.

Morgan Lippert as “Snow Maiden”. Photo by Dale Dong

A mistake happens. A fire breaks out; the Snow Maiden is too close. She melts away. The Snow Queen comes once again to the rescue. Enlisting the aid of some fairies, the young girl is given new life twinkling eyes, a keen sense of beauty, color in her cheeks plus a voice and animated movement.

The Snow Queen, not to be outdone, gives her a heart as well, and thus lets her become a real child. All ends well and the characters presumably live happily ever after.

The story line is made for dance a large party where leaps and whirling is de riguer; play time that includes a kind of May Pole to dance around; and young love where embraces and lifts are the visual equivalent of strong emotion.

The happy ending and fairies in this ballet are not in the original story. In the folk tale, the young girl melts as she cavorts with other children as they leap across a bonfire to keep warm. That’s the dark version of the tale. This more romantic and adult version has the young girl’s icy heart melt as she falls in love. Symbolically she becomes more human (that is, loving) and turns into a real person.

The ballet relies on the lush music of Peyotr Tchaikovsky (who composed the score as incidental music for an operatic version of the Russian folktale) with addition music by Alexander Glazunov, particularly his The Seasons and its focus on wintertime and snow.

 “The Snow Maiden” will be performed on Saturday, January 26 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, January 27 at 2 p.m. in E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall, 198 Hill St., AKron; 330-972-7570; www.ejthomashall.com. Tickets are $20,  $10 for children and students.