LUZERNE — Her face and body fairly tremble with malice as the Evil Queen dances across the studio floor, forcing her poor little stepdaughter to scoot backwards out of the way.
Later in the ballet “Snow White,” the queen appears positively gleeful as she pulls a sword from a jeweled chest and gives it to a huntsman with instructions to kill the girl she dislikes so much.
When the huntsman can’t bring himself to commit murder, the Evil Queen uses magic to turn him into a rag doll, then smiles smugly as she stows him in a trunk.
Welcome to rehearsal at the Harris Conservatory in Luzerne, where some 500 young dancers have been preparing “Snow White” for April 23-24 shows at the Dallas Performing Arts Center.
Here at the Conservatory, 18-year-old Anna Giacometti of Dallas has concentrated on “getting in the zone” to portray a queen so mean that, as choreographer Elisabeth Harris explains, “She doesn’t have a single redeeming quality.”
“The music helps,” Giacometti said, explaining the ballet’s musical score signals when the villain is up to her wickedness.
During a recent rehearsal the queen threatened young Snow White, played by 12-year-old Grace Nicolai, of Dallas, and killed the huntsman and a courtier, played by Keri Lushefski of Nanticoke and Paula Heritage of Luzerne.
In a lighter scene, a more grown-up Snow White, played by 16-year-old Caitlyn Berrini of Larksville, hung up clothes, aided by seven dwarfs, all of them big fans of their new friend. Well, maybe there was one exception.
“I’m Grumpy, so I don’t like her at first,” 11-year-old Heidi Williams, of Shavertown, admitted with a smile. “But later I like her, too.”
Watching the rehearsal from the sidelines was Lauren Slavoski, 18, of Shavertown, who reluctantly relinquished the role of the Evil Queen after she injured her knee during a volleyball tournament in March.
Disappointed as she was to give up the juicy part, Slavoski said she’s glad to see how well her understudy made the role her own in just a few weeks. “We’re really good friends,” she said.
When Giacometti stepped into the Evil Queen role, Sarah Knappman, 17, of Wilkes-Barre, stepped into Giacometti’s former role as a dove. She, too, is doing a great job with little rehearsal time, the choreographer said.
To soften the blow of losing the Evil Queen role, other dancers have given Slavoski a chance to do things they had expected to do, such as portray the image in the queen’s mirror.
Slavoski is glad to do that, and also to perform such non-dancing, evil-queen tasks as trying to kill Snow White with a tight corset and trying again with a poisoned apple.
In effect, she’s sharing the villainous role with Giacometti, which is fine with both young women. With this queen, there’s plenty of evil to go around.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT