Grace, beauty, ballet

“Snow White” is a beloved Disney movie, but the Mount Dora School of Ballet’s performance of the ancient story will be the darker version from the original fairytale. The ballet will be performed May 20-21 at Lake-Sumter State College.

Writer: Leigh Neely // Photos: Fred Lopez

“It’s something we haven’t done before,” dancer Annika Slaby says. “It’s kind of nice how we’re not taking it from the Disney movie.”

Director Kathryn Wheeler says the ballet begins with the coronation of the queen, where Snow White is introduced as a debutante. There will be the familiar scenes of the beautiful Queen and her mirror that does not lie. Of course, her jealousy becomes hatred when the mirror lauds Snow White’s beauty. The climax will be at the wedding reception of Snow White and her King. There will be royalty from other countries to celebrate the marriage, and a fitting ending for the Queen.

Anna Scott Clendinen is Snow White in the ballet, and Madison Brown, a graduate, will be playing the Queen. The King is played by David Coulter, a student’s father, who has previously been in ballets with the school. Other familiar roles include the Huntsman, played by Nick Patterson, who is in the Orlando Ballet along with Jeremy Studinski, who portrays the Prince.

Kathryn says she created the ballet by taking parts from other ballets, so it’s an original for the Mount Dora school. The younger dancers will be trees and flowers as all the classes at the school will be participating.

“We’re so fortunate to have supportive parents here,” Kathryn says. “We’re like a family. A father of one of our students is working on the sets, and everyone helps where they can.”

The dancers in the senior class include Meradith Obispo, Annika Slaby, Fabiana Sarno, Anna Scott Clendinen, Madison Yates, and Anna White, who is a graduate.

Kathryn is very proud of this particular class. Many of the students have been with her since they were 4 years old.

“They’ve grown up here,” she says. “They are my first class to have every student in a summer intensive program.”

Ballet companies from all over offer intensive summer programs. These dancers will be attending schools from San Francisco Ballet Company to Ellison Ballet in New York City, and the Bolshoi Ballet will be offering programs in various areas, including Connecticut, where Fabiana will be attending.

The Mount Dora school was founded more than a decade ago by Kathryn and Nan Cogswell to bring exceptional classical ballet to this area. Nan has retired but stays in touch with Kathryn and the students. Kathryn is an American Ballet Theatre-certified teacher. She was named principal of Metropolitan Ballet Theatre in 1998.

The dancers practice at least 20 hours a week, and more when they are preparing for a performance. Working with Kathryn, they’ve come to understand how vital this kind of dedication is to the dance.

“It’s not just what you do in the classroom, she tells us,” Annika says. “It’s what you do at home that counts, too.”

Meradith adds, “Doing this, you learn to take critiques, but in the most constructive way possible.”

The young ladies say they’re all thinking about being professional dancers, and they’re already exhibiting an aptitude for it.

“I feel like I’m working with a pre-professional class,” Kathryn says.

The excitement the dancers feel about doing “Snow White” is obvious even as they’re rehearsing.

“I always feel we have this amazing performance every year, and I think we can’t do any better,” Meradith says. “But we always do.”