Nor is this some second tier ballet company, but that of respected French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj’s Ballet Preljocaj. The French-Albanian contemporary choreographer made a name for himself in the ’90s, challenging the ballet status quo. In Preljocaj’s hands Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet was set in a Cold War gulag; his 1996 production Annonciation depicted a female archangel Gabriel in passionate embrace with the Virgin Mary.
When he set his sights on the fairy tale Snow White it was always going to be inspired by the dark and vicious world the Brothers Grimm’s 1812 story invoked, not the Disneyfied remake of 1937. Preljocaj was in the audience in 2008 when Gaultier sent models down the catwalk in an homage to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and knew in an instant this was the designer he wanted for his dark, erotic, visually ravishing interpretation of Snow White.
As luck would have it, Gaultier was also a fan of Preljocaj’s work.
“I had been following Angelin Preljocaj’s work for a long time. I go every year to the Theater Festival in Avignon and I had seen Helikopter [to music by Stockhausen], it left a strong impression on me,” Gaultier says from Paris. “When Angelin contacted me to discuss a project I didn’t hesitate at all.”
The pair met over dinner so Preljocaj could explain his vision for Snow White that would combine extracts of Mahler with electronic music, marrying Germanic romanticism with a very contemporary aesthetic. In Preljocaj’s world the narcissistic and darkly sensual Queen reigns supreme.
“Angelin explained his vision of Snow White – that he wanted to follow the fairytale but with all the sensual and archetypal undertones it carried. It was a return to the source in a way,” Gaultier says. “I was intrigued by his vision and agreed to work on the costumes for the characters as he saw them. Angelin gave me all the freedom I wanted. When I work on my shows and my collections I am at the same time the director, I write a script I do the casting but when I work with a film director or a choreographer I try to put myself in their service and try to make them ‘Gaultier’ but to fit their story and vision.”