Interview: Liv Lorent - on taking Snow White to a new place

Monday 7 March 2016

Liv Lorent. Photo: Keith Pattinson

Newcastle based choreographer Liv Lorent founded her company balletLORENT in 1993, the year she graduated and since then the award winning company has toured widely. Liv enjoys working with individual performers who are diverse in age and experience, with many works featuring intergenerational casts. BalletLORENT are back at Sadler’s Wells for Family Weekend this Easter, with Snow White – the second part of a trilogy based on fairy tales…

How does the Brother’s Grimm Fairytale version of Snow White, on which this production is based, differ from the Disney film that many audience members will be familiar with?
Our Snow White heroine is also beautiful, good and kind, but more gutsy and athletic than in the Disney version! The seven miners are quite a rough and tumble – a funny mix of forest dwelling workers on whom the palace’s luxurious life is dependent.

This production is based on the very original Grimm version where Snow White’s real mother becomes consumed with jealousy as her daughter’s beauty overtakes her own. I have been very interested in exploring the out-of-control desire suffered by the Queen, with her desperate need to be the most beautiful woman in the realm. Her relationship with her reflection is fascinating, and the sense that her ageing has contributed to a torturous experience with her mirror.

Carol Ann Duffy has done an amazing job taking the original Grimm fairytale to new place, including The Huntsman (who is also the Head Miner) as the person able to rouse Snow White from her deep, poisoned apple sleep with a kiss. No fancy Prince in our version! It has been really important for us to deliver real emotion, experienced by believable characters, within this romantic fairytale world.

You’ve been able to re-assemble the same creative team that worked on balletLORENT’s Rapunzel – Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, composer Murray Gold, set designer Phil Eddoll, lighting designer Malcolm Rippeth – and the Royal Northern Sinfonia. For Snow White you have three new collaborators – actress Lindsay Duncan (as Narrator), costume designer Libby Everall and soprano Elin Manahan Thomas. What do they bring to the production?
Each collaborator brings a depth of artistry to the production that gives a richness of aesthetic, and an emotional clout that I don’t think I could come near to achieving on my own. It also really helps to elevate the scale of the work, and gives a wide range of ages in the audience something very substantial to connect with from one minute to the next. There really isn’t anything very minimalist about this production, and I love all the collaborators for being able to commit so completely to this dark and beautiful fairytale world.

balletLORENT’s eleven professional dancers will be joined by a cast of children local to the venue where Snow White is being performed. What are the challenges/delights of working with young children?
The children are a massively important part of this production, and we are so thrilled to have their energy and talent on stage with us. They add something completely unique to the production – and help the story become even more epic and emotional. They are very different, but every bit as delightful and mesmerising as the animals in the Disney film! balletLORENT has a long history of sharing the professional stage with dancers of all different ages, shapes, sizes and experiences, and we love to offer our guest ensemble a fantastic performance experience.

Have you seen a growing demand for family-friendly dance theatre with high production values over the years you’ve toured with balletLORENT? Has becoming a mother changed your approach to making theatre for families?
We started making family work in 2006 with Angelmoth, long before I had children myself. But certainly, seeing many shows with my own two children has greatly influenced what I want to put into each show we make, and what I want each adult and child to get out of a balletLORENT production. I do know that many of us as parents can ill afford the time or money to go out without our children, so it makes the need to enjoy something of high quality together as a family ever more important.

You’ve been working with on The Bench programme with 2faced which has been set up to address the inequality of opportunity faced by female choreographers. Can you tell us something about what you’ve been doing on the programme? Do you think we are starting to see more progress on gender equality amongst dance makers?
I have been enjoying mentoring Jennifer Essex – a very exciting choreographer – who has recently moved to the North East. balletLORENT has been growing slowly over 23 years to date, and we have managed to accrue quite a few experiences through our many ups and downs on the way, and I’m really happy to share some knowledge and give some support to such a talented and dedicated woman.

Snow White is the second of a planned trilogy of adapted fairytales from balletLORENT – have you already started working on the final instalment?
Yes, the thoughts are in progress now – and we are hoping to create Rumpelstiltskin in 2017!

It’s International Women’s Day on 8 March – will you be celebrating?
On International Women’s Day, balletLORENT we are releasing this video which celebrates the diversity of the cast of dancers in Snow White. We hope that it shows our strength as a female-led company, and importantly celebrates our dancers, who are actually very different in terms of age (with a range of 22 – 52 years old) training (from around the world) and experience. A few are mothers themselves, and as a company we strive to always support our dancers at different stage in their lives.

balletLORENT’s Snow White is part of Family Weekend at Sadler’s Wells
25 & 26 March

Liv Lorent. Photo: Keith Pattinson

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