Longtime ballet dancer will become Snow White this weekend
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Emaline Cook is not a fairy tale character. She has, however, grown over the years through the story of “Snow White.”
Cook, 18, of Chambersburg, has been dancing for 15 years. She danced her first time in Snow White as a little squirrel, she said. Several years later, she portrayed a dwarf, and her third time, she danced the part of a dove keeping vigil over the princess. This time, she will finally be the princess.
On Saturday, June 9, Cook will be dancing the lead role in two performances of Chambersburg Ballet Theatre Company’s production of Snow White at The Capitol Theatre Center in downtown Chambersburg. Shows are 2 and 6:30 p.m.
Lavinia Reid, director of the Chambersburg Ballet Theatre School and artistic director of Chambersburg Ballet, composed the music for the ballet in 1994. She has produced and directed the show on numerous occasions at various venues including performances in Trumansburg, N.Y., and in Ithaca, N.Y.
Also a professional classical violinist, Reid has composed nine original ballets.
“We do Snow White here every four or five years with a new, young Snow White,” Reid said. “We start with a little girl who gets chased through the forest and the whole story that people know from Disney. But I think this goes farther than Disney in a lot of ways.”
Reid and a friend translated the fairy tale from the original 19th-century Brothers Grimm story in 1992. They condensed the text into a libretto to create the story for the piece.
“We use fairies of the seasons to make time pass as Snow White grows up. There is beautiful, colorful dancing, beautiful spring, summer, autumn, winter. You see them repeat dances in this beautiful pattern,” Reid said.
The role of Snow White typically is portrayed by a professional dancer, Reid said, but Cook “happened to be proficient enough to dance the choreography.”
The recent high school graduate has been accepted to Point Park University in Pittsburgh to study dance with a concentration in ballet.
“It’s really fun to dance the role of Snow White because I have always watched actual professional dancers do this role,” Cook said. “To be able to do it, to do the pas de deux with a professional dancer, is really fun.”
Reid’s son, professional dancer Peter Doll, will travel from San Jose, Calif., to dance the role of the prince. Like Cook, Doll grew up with the ballet. A toddler when Reid composed the piece, Doll would fall asleep under the piano as Reid wrote the music. His first part in the ballet was a role as a chipmunk.
The cast of around 45 dancers, which has been rehearsing three times a week since February, features 14 company dancers as well as other students of the ballet school.
“Everyone has to interpret emotions when they are dancing,” Reid said. “There is a lot of pantomime, incorporating how the characters would feel and act into the choreography.”
The production is “perfect for all audiences,” she said.
“There is great dancing. We’ve got scenes in blacklight, the evil queen, the witch. We’ve got the cave where the dwarves mine the precious gems and gold,” she said. “The pas de deux is gorgeous. It has all the elements of classical ballet.”
With the dwarves and other characters, the production also incorporates comedic elements.
“The youngest students are little forest animals, little friends of Snow White. But they have to be really good young dancers,” Reid said.
Most of the younger dancers take at least four classes per week, while company dancers take around 10 classes per week.
“They are not allowed en pointe until they are extremely proficient,” she said. “We have to be very careful and responsible about that.”
The roughly one-hour ballet is 16 pieces of music in two continuously-run acts.
A narrator shares details and helps to make the ballet approachable to audiences, Reid said.
“People know the Disney story, but they don’t know the original German story,” she said. “There are three birds that watch over the body of Snow White. It explains that when the prince sees her, his heart is filled with compassion. It’s not like, ‘Oh, what a hot babe.’ It’s, ‘She is so lovely and looks like she could awaken at any moment.’”
Reid said she relishes the opportunity to bring the story to audiences.
“In my mind, I see the ballet as a whole. I can imagine what it should look like and sound like,” she said. “Then it’s just a matter of bringing it to fruition.”
Top photo: Emaline Cook will dance as Snow White will dance with the Chambersburg Ballet Company’s production of “Snow White” at The Capitol Theatre Center in Chambersburg, Pa. (Submitted photo)