Friday, November 23, 2012

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland

Last season the National Ballet of Canada premiered Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and it sold out!  So I was very pleased they decided to bring it back this year for a longer run and made plans not to miss it.

Opening with Carroll reading to Alice and her sisters
(Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)
The evening began with the always enlightening and philosophical ballet talk by Lindsay Fischer, ballet master.  He took the audience through the various tableaus that form the basis of the story.  It began with Alice and her sisters playing while her mother is preparing for a grand tea party.  Because ballet isn't ballet without a love interest with which to dance a pas de deux, Alice and Jack, the gardener's boy, like each other.  However social norms of 1862 time period and Alice's mother, forbid her from having anything to do with Jack.  This is particularly true after she gives him a tart in return for the red rose he mistakingly put in with the white ones for her mother.  What I particularly loved was that Lewis Carroll was a guest at this party.  The "real life" part of the story wove in how the book of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland actually came about.  Carroll wrote them at the request of his friend's daughter Alice, after he was entertaining the girls for the day and told them these great stories.

Aleksandar as the White Rabbit
(Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)
Suddenly at this party things begin to change, Carroll becomes the White Rabbit (both parts played by Aleksandar Antonijevic) and Alice follows him down the jelly dessert in the middle of the table, an interesting twist on a rabbit hole, to Wonderland.  Multi media was used well throughout the performance.  It really gave the feeling of falling into or rising out of a hole without going over the top or being overused.  The scenes of growing, shrinking, crying and floating through tears, of which my best recollections are from the Disney movie, were all there.  Sonia Rodriguez played Alice at the performance I saw and did a wonderful job of acting the little girl who eventually learns about life and grows up.

The action truly never ended.  The idea that in a good movie you don't even notice the music was so true here.  A shame in a way because the music was so good, but it fit the dance and story so well it melted in rather than stood out.  The orchestra was big with the percussion filling the entire back of the pit and there were two harps!  The White Rabbit theme reminded me of segments from Bernstien's West Side Story score.  After a crazy scene in a fiery kitchen hidden behind the innocent needlepoint claiming "Home Sweet Home", Jack returns, only as the Knave of Hearts now, with a tray of tarts.  They hide in the cottage while the bad tempered Queen of Hearts (Alice's mother) looks for him to chop off his head.

Eventually the magician at the garden party appears as the Mad Hatter.  If one wants to read into the meanings behind what Alice could be learning with each encounter, the Hatter teaches Alice about time.  One doesn't grow up just by waiting out time, because time can be divided however one wants.  This is demonstrated to great effect by having the Mad Hatter tap dance!  When was the last time you saw anything other than ballet slippers and pointe shoes at a ballet?  It was great.  In fact Rick Mercer even got in on the action for The Rick Mercer Report, where he learned a little tap.  Check it out here.

Sonia as Alice and the Cheshire cat
(Photo by Bruce Zinger)
Alice meets the cheshire cat who exists in pieces held by dancers dressed in black, so his various parts glow in the black light.  Here the mime conversation, as explained by Mr. Fischer, was the cat asking her where she wants to go.  Her response is anywhere but here.  The cat replies, then it doesn't matter which road you take.  Philosophy on the simple level, yet she learns that it's not the road that matters but you guide your own path.  Alice also takes part in the croquet game with the Queen complete with dancing flamingo croquet mallets.  In the Queen's court the corps du ballet costumes were so well done with the card tutus.
Corps as cards
(Photo by Bruce Zinger)

Jiri as the Caterpillar
(Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

One of the final characters Alice meets is the caterpillar, danced by Jiri Jelinek.  An exotic dance, that reminded me in a way of the Coffee dance in The Nutcracker.  It even had a more refined version of 'the worm'.

The Queen and card dancers not doing so well
In the garden the Queen wants to display her dancing skills and has trouble finding any willing partners.  The four gentlemen reluctantly agree and each tries to get out of it by having the other take their place.  Coined the "tart adagio" (a take off of the "rose adagio" in Sleeping Beauty) it takes the real life worry of the rose adagio suiters who don't want to screw up for the prima ballerina playing Aurora, and converts that into the situation of these gentlemen not wanting to screw up and hear the horrible "off with their heads" cry.

To add some tension the Knave is accused of stealing the tarts and he and Alice have a reprise of the pas de deux from the opening tea party scene.  I like when the choreography repeats, especially a really intricate move, and this dance had that and was beautifully executed by Guillaume Cote who was playing the Knave.  Eventually Alice decides to stand up to the Queen for him, and say the Knave didn't steal any tarts, she gave it to him.  By taking a stand she pushes over the house of cards and they come falling down as she falls back up the rabbit hole and back to real life.

The ending was very well done.  It jumped to modern times with Jack and Alice, now a couple, reclining on a bench when Alice suddenly wakes up and describes the dream she just had about the book she was reading.  A gentleman walks by and Alice seems to think he's familiar.  He takes their picture, and then sits down on the bench vacated by Alice and Jack.  The curtain falls as he scratches his ear in the fashion of the White Rabbit leaving one with the question, was it really only a dream?

No comments:

Post a Comment