Snow White Credit: JC Carbonne

In Angelin Preljocaj’s contemporary ballet Snow White, the arresting psychological situation is a romantic rivalry between Snow White, the Prince—and Snow White’s dominatrix stepmother, the Queen. The choreography rises well above pantomime. The acute, intelligent images are extremely alluring. And the fairy tale’s most important scenes—Snow White’s apparent demise and her resurrection—register as exhilarating jolts.

Based on the original by the Brothers Grimm, this Snow White departs from the narrative most of us know. After the Queen chokes Snow White with a poisoned apple and stalks back to her lair, another woman, Snow White’s mother, enters. Placing her hands on either side of her daughter’s head, she raises herself with mesmerizing control into an elongated handstand. The ecstatic illusion of infinite stretch continues as both women are hauled into the air; Snow White hangs from her mother’s neck and they dangle together like a hinge unscrewed from its jamb. In a later scene, when the Prince lifts Snow White’s limp body from her coffin, he leads her in a rhythmic, repetitive caper, then cradles and grasps her. The suggestion of necrophilia, usually blurred in the fairy tale, shocks with its frank perversity.

Thierry Leproust’s minimalist set design enhances the mystery and sex appeal of the characters and makes canny use of key props such as the Queen’s mirror, a sharp-edged black rectangle that soars 20 feet high to emphasize the extent of her vanity. Jean Paul Gaultier complicates Snow White’s innocent reputation by costuming her in a revealing white dress finished with a diapered crotch, a seductive baby.