BWW Reviews: Michael Pink Conjures A Majestic Masterpiece in MIRROR, MIRROR
Michael Pink's World Premiere Mirror, Mirror conjures a spell that leaves the audience speechless except for the applause of a standing ovation in Uhlien Hall at Milwaukee's Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. In collaboration with the Milwaukee Ballet Company, Andrews Sill and the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, Composer Philip Fenney, Lighting Designer David Grill and Costume and Scenic Designer Todd Edward Ivins, Pink's masterpiece production on the Thursday night opening of the fairy tale Snow White presented a majestic full-length theatrical ballet for Milwaukee audiences.
Serving as Artistic Director for the Milwaukee Ballet the past decade, Pink's visionary plans for this performance art's future comes full circle in his Mirror, Mirror. The profoundly modern ballet intertwined folklore from the original fairy tale based in the Brothers Grimm story instead of Walt Disney's version while contemporary elements in the performance moved Snow White's story into a surreal fantasy.
Pink designed ethereal choreography for Nicole Teague's innocent and luminous Snow White, which then became the counterpoint to Susan Gartell's marvelous seductress, the narcissistic stepmother Claudia. A women who herself is seduced by vanity when her beauty can be reflected in a mirror, a grand, cracked mirror that opens and closes on stage for the audience to marvel at. In this tale, four Evil Demons of the Mirror surround Claudia to tempt her into a murderous rage against her stepdaughter.
In the ballet's Prologue, the audience sees Snow White contented until her mother dies, after which in Act I Claudia seduces her widowed father, Josef, the regal Davit Hovhannisyan. Delightful scenes where the country men and women frolic in the forest or at a celebration showcase the entire ballet corps set against a backdrop of two spidery apple trees. Which the dancers climb on or move aournd on set while a half-bitten apple shaped backdrop hangs over the stage, which could also be viewed as a crescent moon or mountaintop. Delicate footwork and exceptional lifts characterize Snow White's movements and her pas de deux with her boyfriend, Gustav, an equally accomplished Alexandre Ferreira. Snow White's fast paced and fluid dance steps add heightened tension to the incredibly sensual and slower poses Gartell applies to Claudia when she tries to seduce Josef and later Gusatav in Act I.
Fenney's marvelous score sounds ominous chords and notes for Claudia's evil qualities while he introduces a rhythmic playfulness to Snow White's melodies that complement the country men and women corps work in Act II, when she runs to the forest to find a respite from her stepmother's jealousy. With this lyrical music in the background, Ivins captures the essence of the tale with his otherworldly costumes, so vividly in the wedding scene between Josef and Claudia, all the dancers clothed in black garments except for Snow White. Or when Claudia and Snow White prepare for the birthday party after the marriage where their elegant costumes mirror each other except for the color, one in white, the other black. Also of note, an especially delicate and intricate detailed body suit worn by Gartell as Claudia undressed in front of the mirror or when she seduces her men must be described as sublime, as is the simple and swirling skirt on Snow White's short gown.
To watch Pink's Mirror, Mirror unfold on stage similar to the actual mirror the story focuses on during the ballet allows the audience to travel to a place that draws them into the production's intense action and the classical ballet dances of this production's theatricality. The stepmother Claudia requires three attempts to finally murder her rival Snow White, each attempt in the ballet equally compelling and dramatic, so the audience never escapes back into their present reality, nor should they. The choreography's breathtaking beauty flows so seamlessly with the music and scenery in the dynamic two-act ballet one essentially immerses themselves into the performance.
During the performance and after the curtain falls, Pink's Mirror, Mirror sends the audience on a journey into that subconscious state of mind where creativity exists and dreams are born. Dreams that brought a full-length ballet from conception to completion in a spectacular production, perhaps a ballet masterpiece, while the audience can be entranced by a tale reflecting how envy and jealously might entice a person to commit unspeakable evil. A subliminal and often dormant subconscious place in the mind that convinces the audience to believe art and culture become critical to society's well being and they, too, can achieve their personal dreams despite what hardships befall their life. A place Pink must travel to on a regular basis because one can barely anticipate waiting for his next world premiere he casts in his mind while this performance transported the audience to a fantastical evening of ballet. Somewhere that was also seen on stage in Pink's previous world premiere Peter Pan, a story that spoke of this valuable subconscious place often called imagination people might listen to:
"Do you know that place between sleep and awake, where you can still remember dreaming?" The irrepressible fairy Tinkerbell asks Peter Pan in J.M. Barrie's lengendary story. Somewhere between sleep and awake in that subconscious place lurks the human motivation to create art, beauty, happy endings and love. A place where these qualities still exist to be remembered as surreal dreams that transform into a living reality. Together with the Milwaukee Ballet and his artistic team, Michael Pink's spellbinding ballet Mirror, Mirror awakens that subconcious magic hidden within the recesses of the continually inventive human mind.
The Milwaukee Ballet presents Michael Pink's World Premiere Mirrror, Mirror through May 18 in Uhlein Hall at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. For information or tickets on the 2014-2015 Season of Classics, a subscription to the Milwaukee Ballet, which inlcue Don Quixote, The Nucracker, Genesis, The International Chroregraphic Competition, Michael Pink's Giselle and Cinderella, please contact 414.902.2103 or www.milwaukeeballet.org.