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This weekend's production of "The Snow Queen" at the Cowles Center gave evidence that Ballet Co.Laboratory, at just five years old, is already a company to be reckoned with.

Saturday's matinee buzzed with audience members of all ages buying T-shirts and coffee mugs during intermission, and posing with the dancers after the show. In addition to the enthusiasm the company sparks in fans, it showed its gift for originality. Rather than producing yet another version of "The Nutcracker" for the holiday season, it veered, setting a Hans Christian Andersen tale to music by British composer Dame Ethel Smyth.

This slightly tweaked version of Andersen's story gave the snow queen a backstory that helped explain her trajectory. It retained the tale's magic and main character Gerda's tenacity and deep empathy as the young girl finds and brings home her enchanted friend Kai.

Sage Engle-Laird portrayed Gerda's sweet demeanor and nailed her emotional range. Even in difficult solo sections, Engle-Laird connected with Gerda's spirit and through-line. Zoé Emilie Henrot, the company's artistic director and choreographer, made Gerda's solos curve and float, showing the character as a force of lightness in the story.

Henrot's orchestration of large group scenes were equally impressive, given her eye for stage picture and creating moving patterns. The scene where Gerda encounters a river made of dancers worked especially well. She saw a vision of Kai, played by Ezra Frazier, on the other side, but the river twisted and flowed between them, wrapping around the two children and preventing Gerda from reaching her friend.

That being said, the production could have used some editing. After an exciting first scene showing the origin of the enchanted mirror, the next few scenes dragged, with too much time setting up the world of the village and orphanage and too little moving the plot forward.

The second act had better momentum, with a few standout performances. Sabriyya Dean was terrific as the Reindeer Queen Gerda encounters on her journey in one of the more acrobatic sequences. And Tabytha Ewy stepped into the weight and power of the Snow Queen with theatrical flair.

Ballet Co.Laboratory held an online premiere of "The Snow Queen" in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and brought it back to a live audience for the first time this year. With a few adjustments, it could be a piece with staying power during the holiday season.