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The Making of Charles Bennett’s ballet, Snow White
Charles Bennett, associated with California Ballet since 1974, was a choreographer of note. From enchanting fairy tales to the provocatively macabre Dracula, Charles Bennett turned California Ballet productions into an extension of his imagination. There were no limits to his creativity. Within the resources at hand, he was able to create marvelous and effective ballets, from the basic elements of production right through to the choreography.
Charles Bennett’s fondness for incorporating multimedia effects into his ballets was only one of his many talents. Remarkable as a creative force, Mr. Bennett was also a uniquely talented teacher and coach who was a master at developing character on stage. His artistic influences helped shape dancers across the nation and particularly here at California Ballet, with the inception of his children’s ballets. Dancers and ballets created from the generosity of his heart, talent, and genius have entertained and become a part of San Diego’s community and cultural milieu.
Queen and her servantHe had an incredible ability to focus and direct his concentration on the character of a role – every role. Anyone having worked with him will quickly recall Charles’ insistence in the rehearsal studio that every individual participate in each moment fully and with serious intent. His own acting ability was phenomenal and his examples drew immediate respect and understanding of the depth of a role being developed. As Sara de Luis would so appropriately put it: “He delighted me, directed me, infuriated me, inspired me, outraged me, amused me and filled my life with memories forever engraved in my heart.”
Another particular talent for Charles was creating ballets for and including children. His easy sense of humor, along with his clever creativity were both easy matches for the stories of Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, Snow White, and Alice In Wonderland. California Ballet was fortunate to produce two of these under his guidance, Snow White and Alice In Wonderland, which Charles scored to original musical collages.
When it came to children’s roles, Mr. Bennett was particularly adept at enticing the most out of them. He believed in their abilities and challenged them to do more. Roles such as the dwarves in Snow White are quite demanding, and instantly endearing to the audience.
As usual, Charles would seam these characters together with movement, music, dramatics, story, costumes, scenic, and multimedia effects to create a work full of continuous adventure. Those of us who watched Charles work would marvel at his imagination. When it came to sets and props, thrift stores were his haven. His tool kit consisted of gold spray paint, a glue gun and enough rope to create props for any ballet from any century. Who knew that Tupperware would become a staple item in the California Ballet scenic shop?
One of the most important collaborators for Charles was his dear friend and partner of many years, Alan Madsen. Alan could take Chuck’s ideas and masterfully put colors and fabrics into perfect expressions of characters and time. Alan has since contributed many designs to other California Ballet works as well.