In this exclusive interview, Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s Artistic Director Dianna Cuatto reveals the beauty behind her new, socially conscious version of Snow White amidst renewed concern over some of the themes presented in the classic fairy tale.
Why Snow White? Why now?
Dianna Cuatto (DC): We gave the audience a wide range of works to choose from for our 40th Anniversary, from classics like Coppélia to story ballets like Pride & Prejudice to fairy tales like Snow White. Over the years, our most popular full-length requests have either been the classics or the fairy tales. BTM has a lot of fairytales in its repertoire that Disney remade into less dark stories than the original ones. Each of these tales are reflections of family values that resonate across all cultures.
What are some of the family values in your version of Snow White?
DC: In the case of Snow White, there are two important themes that speak to those values: 1) Snow White is more beautiful than the Queen, because she is compassionate, kind, and fair-minded rather than vain, jealous, and self-absorbed; 2) The only thing powerful enough to break the Queen's spell and bring life and healing into death is love. These themes are relevant no matter the period or social norms, but I am updating the story and the characters to make them more relevant to today's times.
How does your ballet deviate from the Disney narrative/original Brothers Grimm tale?
DC: First, Snow white will learn compassion for others including the Queen through her journeys from princess to servant to caretaker of the dwarves, Second, she will meet the prince during each of these parts of her journey, and they will establish a friendship. Third, Snow White will show compassion for the queen who appears to her as the old crone, the wise woman, but will not take an apple from her. Instead, the queen will slip the apple into a basket of fruit already on the cottage table where an unsuspecting Snow White will become the victim of its magical powers.
Fourth, the prince will not simply kiss the maiden. Instead, he must defeat the queen and destroy her evil power which is fueled by jealousy and vanity. When he defeats her, all of the queen's evil curses will break apart and light will dispel the darkness from the magic mirror to her minions to the spell of death cast upon Snow White. Fifth, Snow White and the Prince will declare their love for each other, become engaged, and have a wedding.
What other unique qualities does your version of Snow White have?
DC: In addition, there are some fun twists and surprises in this version that I don't want to spoil for the audience by revealing too much, but I like my stories to have some transformative, healing moments in them. And I guarantee that this story will. So, I hope you will all come out and give this new version of Snow White a chance! I promise it will be fun for your whole family. I guarantee you will not be disappointed!