Weekend Watch: Ballet Manila’s Snow White

Art Samantha Gonzales

Words by

Digital Reporter

Folk tales, fairy tales included, are like templates of fanciful dreams and ideas that inspire our youth. Since we learned these tales at a young age, we already have certain expectations on what should be a part of every retelling. And we can accept these retellings as long as these expectations are addressed.

In the words of prima ballerina and CEO of Ballet Manila Inc., Lisa Macuja‑Elizalde, ballet is a perfect art form to retell fairy tales. “I’ve always believed that fairy tales and ballet go hand‑in‑hand,” Macuja‑Elizalde said in the choreographer’s note to Ballet Manila’s rendition of Snow White. “Ever since the first ballets were created, they all centered around a kind of storytelling that involved heroes and villains, friends and foes, love and betrayal, conflict between classes—and always, the triumph of good over evil—which are the staple ingredients of dreams and make‑believe.”

Lisa Macuja‑Elizalde’s Snow White is the third performance in Ballet Manila’s 22nd Performance Season entitled Flights of Fantasy, following Gerardo Francisco’s Ibong Adarna last August and ballet staple Swan Lake last October. Snow White will run from November 27 to December 2. A classic fairy tale about a kind and beautiful princess who ends up living with a group of seven dwarfs after her evil stepmother tries to kill her out of jealousy, Ballet Manila’s take on it borrows heavily from the 1937 Disney movie with a few additional characters to flesh out the main plot.

As I watched the show premiere surrounded by children who squealed with delight as the dwarfs entered and exited the stage through the audience area, I realized that these story changes are probably for the best. The Brothers Grimm’s rendition of Snow White has a lot of violent scenes that may not be suited for young audiences, like when Snow White ordered the Evil Queen to wear red hot iron shoes and dance at her wedding. Ballet Manila and Disney also cut off the parts about the Queen, disguised as a hag, offering Snow White a comb and a sash before that whole thing about the apple, which saves a lot of time. The Disney movie might be criticized nowadays for wasting too much time on the dwarfs’ antics, but it was those scenes that taught children about the importance of washing your hands before every meal, falling in line and whistling while you work.

The ballet adds five new characters: the huntsman’s wife and son, and a family of deer. All of them help flesh out the characters of the Huntsman and the Prince. They also help impart lessons to children in the audience. It’s the Huntsman’s love for his family that prevents him from killing Snow White, and it’s the Prince’s kindness to animals that leads him to Snow White in the end.

The choreography directed by Macuja‑Elizalde fits perfectly with the music that’s a little bit of Disney, a little bit of classical music, and one version of the Eensy‑Weensy Spider. Feel free to mentally sing along with all the Disney songs that we know you have memorized, you ’90s kid you. You can also tell which dwarf is which by his costume and individual actions, though it’s a bit difficult when it comes to Bashful and Happy. The dancers are as expected of Ballet Manila: they are talented, precise, and seemingly weightless like in a dream.




The costumes are breathtaking, especially those of the Evil Queen and the animals. Every sway of the Queen’s hips, accented by white tights under a see‑through black skirt, reminds you that why yes, she does deserve the title of formerly most beautiful woman in the land. And how did they make those bunnies and deer look so adorable and fluffy despite the dancers wearing tights?

The scene transitions are also masterfully smooth. It was clever to use the Magic Mirror as both an important character in his own right and a device that shows the audience what the Queen has in store for her darling step daughter. The woods are alive, the dwarf cottage is adorable, and seriously the animal characters are just add so much life to a story that we already know by heart.

So Ballet Manila once again manages to make ballet accessible to young and old alike with their shows for children. Because it is a fun and wholesome play that would probably be most appreciated by your younger siblings. But parents, ’90s kids and Disney fans would also have something to look forward to, with it’s refreshing take on a timeless classic.


Lisa Macuja‑Elizalde’s Snow White will have two more shows on December 2 and 3 at the Aliw Theater. For more information visit www.balletmanila.com.ph.