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Brothers Grimm fairy tale brought to life

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By Special to the Monitor

Once again, New Mexico Dance Theater (NMDT) Performance Company and director Susan Baker-Dillingham are bringing an original story ballet to Los Alamos. NMDT will present Baker-Dillingham’s original version of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, “Snow White,” Feb. 22- 24 at the Duane W. Smith Auditorium.This year, NMDT is partnering with the Los Alamos County Library System on an eight-month collaboration, “Literacy in Motion.” The goal of “Literacy in Motion” is to further a love of the arts by using dance as a form of storytelling, allowing readers of all ages to enhance their reading experience by imagining how the characters would use movement to communicate a story themselves. NMDT’s “Snow White” does just that, Baker-Dillingham said.“The ballet is based on the Brothers Grimm book and follows the story very closely, even down to the demise of the Wicked Stepmother, who dances herself to death in red-hot shoes pulled from the fire during Snow White’s wedding,” Baker-Dillingham said. “Fairy tales cover such a wide range of emotions,” she added, “that’s why they can be so diverse and interesting to audience members of all ages. ‘Snow White’ isn’t just for children. There are moments of great poignancy, suspense and humor.”Originality is Baker-Dillingham’s fort, and she said she is confident that “Snow White” will be yet another artistic success for her company of talented dancers.Just as in the past two years of NMDT’s performances of Baker-Dillingham’s original ballet, “Dracula,” “Snow White” promises more of the same outstanding talent in every area. “From the costumes, to the choreography, to many of the sets, ‘Snow White’ is an original,” Baker-Dillingham said.Finding just the right music is also a fort of Baker-Dillingham’s.“Just as there wasn’t a score for my ballet version of ‘Dracula,’ there isn’t an existing full-length score of ‘Snow White’ that I know of,” she said. “It is a very involved process to search for composers and listen for hours on end to find the right music.”The music for “Snow White” is a compilation of composers Baker-Dillingham has put together to create the score. And, just as with “Dracula,” she thinks the final result is varied and interesting, and fits the mood so well that audience members will feel that it was composed for the particular ballet they are enjoying.The cast of “Snow White” consists of 41 dancers, including 10 males, “and I am so happy that five of the adult males in the performance are community members who study dance at NMDT,” Baker-Dillingham said.The New Mexico Dance Theater Performance Company is a pre-professional group designed to teach its performers the fundamentals of what dance is like in a professional dance-company setting. And, as in most of her ballets, Baker-Dillingham guides each dancer in the part he or she is suited for, with associate director Daren Savage helping coach the principal partnered roles.The performance company has four levels: junior apprentice, apprentice, junior company and senior company,Featured dancers in “Snow White” include Kendra Smale in the role of Snow White; Christopher Bornet, courtesy of the School of the Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet, in the role of the Prince; returning guest artist Peter Strand in the role of the Mirror; and graduating senior Anna Bridge in the role of the Wicked Stepmother.“Anna has been especially amazing to work with, and her contribution to the company will be sorely missed next year,” said Baker-Dillingham, who has mentored Bridge in her dance studies for seven years. “Anna has auditioned for and been accepted into the ballet departments at Point Park University–Pittsburgh and Texas Christian University–Fort Worth, and is currently deciding which school to attend. As well, Point Park has offered her a paid ballet apprenticeship, which certainly makes me very proud,” Baker-Dillingham said. “Snow White” marks Bridge’s last performance with the company, and she will be “outstanding” as the Wicked Stepmother, said Baker-Dillingham.Recently, in lecture-demonstration format, “Literacy in Motion” went on tour to all five Los Alamos elementary schools. Together with head of Library Youth Services Angie Manfredi and reading specialist Suzanne Lynne, NMDT visited 1,000 Los Alamos elementary school students. The students were able to hear and see firsthand how an original story can be translated in so many ways, including dance.“I hope the students will come out to the theater and see the ‘Snow White’ production in its entirety,” Baker-Dillingham said. “In this way, children can put the pieces of the puzzle together for themselves.”During each performance, NMDT will offer handouts for parents and children to use to follow the story, including questions children can answer after each scene, take home, and converse with parents about. After each performance, children are encouraged to speak with cast members and ask for autographs.“Snow White” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22, at 2 p.m. Feb. 23 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 2 at Duane Smith Auditorium. Tickets are available in advance at Village Arts or at the door 30 minutes before the performance times.Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and free for children four and younger. NMDT is located at 149 Central Park Square. Registration is ongoing for students age three though adult.