The holidays are over and the last “Nutcracker” has been danced, but the Tchaikovsky repertoire gets some extra mileage this weekend with Jefferson Ballet Theatre’s production of “The Snow Queen.”
JBT will present two performances of the two-act ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky based on the Hans Christian Andersen 1840s fairy tale. The shows will be in the Jesuit High School auditorium on Friday, Jan. 2, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 3, at 2:30 p.m.
Contemporary audiences may be familiar with “The Snow Queen” premise, thanks to Disney’s popular 2013 animated production “Frozen.”
However, according to JBT co-director Kenneth Beck, “When Disney did it, they took the story, threw it away and made their own story. Our version is more literal to the Andersen story line.”
The JBT adaptation also differs from the Tchaikovsky version, Beck added. “When we decided to do the ballet three years ago, we didn’t think the original Tchaikovsky score had the excitement and attraction for the younger audiences. So we went with a more contemporary score.”
The score chosen by Beck and his co-director/dancer wife, Kimberly Matulich-Beck, was written by American composer Randall Michael Tobin in 1998 for a California Contemporary Ballet production.
The story is being told by a narrator, Dr. David Mulnick, who will be sitting on a couch on stage reading the Andersen tale to a young girl.
In the Andersen story, a young boy and girl, Kai and Gerde, are neighbors in a small Scandinavian village. Kai falls under an evil spell and is kidnapped by the Snow Queen. Lonely and heartbroken, Gerde sets out to rescue him.
Dancing in the roles of Kai and Gerde as children are Aaron Richert and Cate Tallant. As young adults, they will be portrayed by David Rochon and Vayle Khalaf.
Addie Melcher, a New Orleans native now dancing with Houston Ballet Academy, will be performing the title role. Kimberly Matulich-Beck will be dancing the role of the Enchantress.
Other notable local dancers include Peter Elliott as the Gypsy King and a Demon (in Act I), and Alex Danna as the Snow Queen’s Escort.
Also dancing featured roles will be Sarah Alexander, Donovan Bendana, Emma Christie, Izabella DeJesus, Elizabeth Donner, Colette Duplantier, Olivia Ernst, Psalm Fitch, Madelynn Hampton, Stephen Kernion, Taylor Lucien, Abigail Nix, Sylvia Owen, Spencer Protti, Hanley Simpson and Ellie Villarubia. There are 45 dancers in all.
Jefferson Ballet Theatre is an outgrowth of the Myra Mier Academy of Dance, founded in Kenner about 40 years ago and still headquartered there. JBT was founded in 1995 and, among other productions, it staged performances of “The Nutcracker” for 15 years.
With Mier’s retirement three years ago, the Becks assumed co-directorship of the company. They stopped doing “The Nutcracker” and began staging “The Snow Queen.”
“Now we don’t compete with everybody else’s ‘Nutcracker,’ ” Beck said. “This is the beginning of the year, so it continues the holiday but it’s something different.”
The Becks created the choreography and designed the costumes, and he designed and built the sets, along with Jonathan Llovet at Jesuit High School. The lighting design is by B.J. Galliano, also from Jesuit.
Most of the dancers come from JBT, but some are from other companies and school dance programs from all over the New Orleans area, Beck said.
“I’m excited about doing this show again,” Beck said. “It’s our fourth year of it, and I think it’s our best cast yet.”