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UA Dance Institute’s ‘The Snow Maiden’ bringing winter relief

1/24/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Roger Durbin

Morgan Lippert has the title role in The University of Akron Dance Institute’s production of “The Snow Maiden.”
Photo courtesy of The University of Akron Dance Institute
DOWNTOWN AKRON — The University of Akron (UA) Dance Institute is reviving its pleasant and fun-filled story ballet, “The Snow Maiden,” which will be performed Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. and Jan. 27 at 1 p.m. at UA’s E.J. Thomas Hall.

For the 2013 production, choreographers are re-adapting Alexander Ostrovsky’s Russian fairy tale to have it fit a midwinter setting, according to Christina Foisie, manager of the Dance Institute.

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 be performed later in the month.

According to a scene list provided by the Dance Institute, the opening focus will be 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.

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 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.

Two of the principal parts will be performed by Dance Institute graduates — Ryan DeAlexandro, who now dances with Verb Ballets, and Frank Suncire. Morgan Lippert will perform as the Snow Maiden, Kathleen Mundy will be Caterina and Meredith Rose Edwards will perform as the Snow Queen.

According to Dance Institute officials, the ballet will appeal to all ages and feature more than 90 costumed performers.

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

Tickets cost $20 for adults and $10 for children and students. They are available at the door as long as seats remain, and also in advance at 330-972-7570, the Thomas Hall Ticket Office and www.ticketmaster.com.

Roger Durbin is professor emeritus of bibliography at The University of Akron and board director of the Dance Critics Association. To contact him, email r.durbin@sbcglobal.net.

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