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Music and dance add to the magic

Renewed music and energetic routines enliven 12th annual ‘Snow Queen’ ballet staged at college.

December 12, 2009|By Joyce Rudolph

Producers forecast a frosting of renewed energy in dance and music for California Contemporary Ballet’s 12th annual performance of “The Snow Queen” next weekend.

Based on the classic by Hans Christian Andersen, the story is about a little girl named Gerda who saves her friend Kai from an evil spell.

Emma Mesrobian of Glendale returns this year to dance the role of the Gypsy Woman, and she infuses the character with a lot of passion, said Erin Holt, artistic director of the professional nonprofit company.

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“She’s very energetic and shows a lot of gypsy attitude,” Holt said.

Mesrobian, 28, was introduced to the dance of the gypsies while taking lessons at the Nare International Dance Academy in Glendale.

She began her training there at age 11.

In “The Snow Queen,” she dances one dance with a group and then performs an intense solo, she said.

Gerda is wearing a muff to keep her hands warm, and the Gypsy Woman admires it and tries to take it from her.

A fight ensues between them, Mesrobian said.

“The dance is very energetic,” she said. “I don’t have time to breathe. It goes from the group dance straight to the solo dance.”

During the fight scene, Mesrobian uses a lot of kicks and flounces her skirt, similar to a flamenco dancer’s movements, she said.

The skirt is covered in coins and heavy, so she had to get used to the weight while dancing.

“I’m a very passionate person, and I love the music,” she said. “It inspires me and gets me going.

“The music and movements really grab the attention of the audience.”

Some of the music has been reorchestrated and/or rewritten for this year’s production by composer Randall Michael Tobin of Burbank.

The pieces that have been changed are the prologue, the town square scene, Kai and Gerda’s rose dance, the snowflakes dance and the scene in which the Snow Queen casts a spell on Kai and takes him away.

They were updated because the production was originally a youth production and has evolved into a mixed adult and youth cast, Tobin said.

“The opening of Act One, the town square scene, I’m looking forward to hearing that because it’s been significantly changed while at the same time getting across the message that although things appear to be normal and carefree, there’s something not quite right lurking underneath, which is the spell,” he said.

Tobin wanted to make it more of a folk dance that would be appropriate to 1600s Denmark, he said.

“It was a cute children’s theme before, but now it’s more like a traditional folk dance, and everybody has their part,” he added.

Tobin’s changes have helped to breathe new life into the production, Holt said.

“There is a mutual exchange of creativity between his music and my choreography, resulting in an overall depth and emotion,” she said.

“His music captures well the essence of the story.”

One of Holt’s favorite examples of that is the river scene.

“Gerda falls in and is drowning,” she said.

“So, I thought it should be a raging river. His music is so dynamic in that scene. It really makes you think it’s a raging river.”


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