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Many aspects of Neos Dance Theatre's production of "Snow White," based on the classic fairy tale, are new.
"Snow White" made its debut at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron April 19, and featured a mix of Neos Dance Theatre dancers, the dance program at The University of Akron, and The University of Akron's Dance Institute. Robert Wesner, the artistic director and co-founder of Neos Dance Theatre, choreographed this full-length work for Neos, plus 36 students from The University of Akron's Dance Program and Dance Institute.
The music throughout the piece varied from traditional classical fare from Tchaikovsky and Barber to Nigerian tunes and Irish folk music, including "O Danny Boy." Taped music was interspersed with live accompaniment. The seven dwarves were absent, but a host of fairies and woodland creatures assisted Snow White. The costumes varied from colorful shirts and slacks to more traditional dance garb. Alec Guthrie, who danced the role as Snow White's Love, performed in most of the show in jeans, white shirt, vest and cowboy hat.
While there were many unique twists in the production of the show, the storyline itself borrowed heavily from the Grimm fairytale, including the parts regarding the poisoned comb the wicked Stepmother (played by Brooke Wesner) gives to Snow White (played by Jennifer Safanovs) and the heated iron shoes the stepmother is forced to wear at the end.
"I really did want to utilize as much of the Grimm story as I could, but still make it recognizable to the audience at first take," said Wesner. "There were some elements I left out; this story is sort of a collaboration of the many different variations I've read."
Safanovs, a Stow native, said it was exciting for Neos Dance Theatre and Wesner to "use all these local connections and local collaborations."
"To me, it was really challenging and really exciting to do dance to live music, with a soprano on stage," she said. "I've never done that before. Another big challenge was being dead for 20 minutes, then hopping down off [the platform] to dance, but it's such a magical moment for the audience. You can almost hear the audience inhale as Snow White takes that first breath and comes back to life."
Neos Dance Theatre will next perform in Akron at the Daum Theatre in Kolbe Hall at The University of Akron on May 16 and 17 at 8 p.m. For details, visit www.neosdancetheatre.org.