Judy Leppek’s performance was this reviewer’s favorite in Ballet Nebraska’s recent production of Snow White at The Rose Theater. Luppek’s regal bearing, perpetually pursed lips, and impossibly long neck made quite an impression. She performed miracles with an arched, cuts-like-a-knife eyebrow in bringing great drama to her character, the deliciously diabolical evil queen.
Which is all well and good, except for the puzzling fact that Leppek—the critic’s fave, mind you—was performing in a non-dancing role. It’s a point that, sadly, doesn’t bode well for a ballet review, where the focus is meant to be…well, ballet.
Sure, Ballet Nebraska founder and artistic director Erika Overturff was terrific in tulle during a memorable solo as the Queen of the Nymphs. And the oft-paired and always resplendent duo of Natasha Grimm-Gregory (the beguiling Snow White) and Sasha York (the charming Prince) provided a couple of magical moments. The problem was that they just weren’t allowed enough dance sequences for them to dish up more than a meager ration of those magical moments.
The second act of Snow White best illustrates this dilemma. Between a septet of darling dwarves and Snow White doing almost everything but dancing, it seemed an eternity before this ballet was allowed to be a ballet.
Guest choreographer Winthrop Corey, artistic director of the Mobile Ballet Company and a summer faculty member for both Joffrey Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre, now has the dubious distinction of being behind my two least favorite Ballet Nebraska works; this one and 2011’s Dracula, which exhibited similar symptoms hinting at a diagnosis of Dance Deprivation Disorder.
Now entering its fourth season, the once fledgling ballet company—the state’s only professional troupe—should be at a certain stage in its maturation. It is to be expected that the early years of any such performance company would be typified by efforts that are building blocks for the future. It should come as no surprise that a company’s initial works could be rather bare-bones-ish. After all, and just as with any launch of a new performance company, Ballet Nebraska started with little more than an artistic vision. Just imagine the tireless organizing, networking, and fundraising that had to unfold before a single dancer could even dream of donning a tutu.
But imagineering has an expiration date. Now is a time when the company should be expected to shine in a fully developed artistic mission, and an ambitious one at that. Snow White didn’t cut any corners when it came to beautiful costumes and sets, but this reviewer felt it did so with dance, the very core of what they do.
Which is all a cryin’ shame. The company has a magnificently talented cadre of artists, but the curiously choreographed Snow White didn’t give audiences much of an opportunity to appreciate their talents.
There’s a classic ballet/burlesque film from the golden age of Hollywood that pits Maureen O’Hara (ballet) against Lucille Ball (burlesque). My wish for Ballet Nebraska is for them to heed the advice from the movie’s title and just Dance, Girl, Dance!
David Williams, the recently named managing editor of Omaha Publications, has written hundreds of performing arts reviews for a number of area publications and formerly served on the board of the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards.