Queen of Our Hearts: The fantastical world of “Alice” comes to live this weekend in the Hole

By on December 6, 2017

 

Dancers’ Workshop’s Junior Repertory Company, the pre-professional company , will be performing as part of “Alice.” (Photo by Sydney Bryan)

A queen of hearts dancing in ballet pointe shoes; a white rabbit leaping through the air; and a massive caterpillar, far larger than a single person wiggling across the stage: “Alice” pushes the audience through the rabbit hole and into a whimsical and fantastical world created by Dancers’ Workshop.

Moving set pieces, bold costumes and 120 dancers bring to life Lewis Carroll’s classic story “Alice in Wonderland,” this weekend at the Center Theater. Dancers’ Workshop presents its original production at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and offers afternoon shows at 2 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.

The show is magical, said Caroline Kucera, a senior at the Jackson Hole Community School. Kucera, 17, plays the eponymous Mad Hatter, bringing to life along with the other dancers a world of make-believe on the stage through movement.

“It’s really wild,” Kucera said. “’Alice’ is already a really crazy story.”

Every year, Dancers’ Workshop presents a holiday show, and often bring in professional companies from elsewhere and work with local dancers. But in original productions like “Alice,” all of the dancers are local and older members of the Junior Repertory Company, the school’s pre-professional dance company, perform the lead roles, said Kucera.

But it is some of the younger students that steal the show, she said. One of Kucera’s favorite moments in the ballet is a croquet game where the youngest dancers, about 6 and 7 years old, act as the hedgehogs the Queen Hearts uses as balls during the game.

There are a ton of people on stage, including dancers on pointe dressed as flamingos, as the little hedgehogs roll around. It’s emblematic of what Kucera loves about the show as a whole.

“There’s just a lot going on,” she said.

Dancers’ Workshop last produced “Alice” in 2009, said Michaela Ellingson, director of the Junior Repertory Company. Ellingson was a senior in high school that year and played the white rabbit.

Since that time, Dancers’ Workshop has made substantial changes to the show, adding onto some scenes and cutting others while creating new choreography to new music and even introducing new characters. This year they added mushrooms, played by some of their youngest dancers.

“They are so hysterical,” she said.

What hasn’t changed, though, is the magic of the story.

“’Alice in Wonderland’ is all about imagination and this mystical and fantastic world that Alice finds herself in,” Ellingson said.

The show opens in a quiet and subdued scene, but once Alice, played by Moran May, falls down the rabbit hole, everything bursts into high-energy and color, Ellingson said.

The set, designed by John Wayne Cook and Dancers’ Workshop Artistic Director Babs Case, features massive moving parts like doors that open like portals to reveal other scenes and worlds.

“The sets are a huge part of this production,” Ellingson said.

Unlike plays, there are no words in the dance production. Each character has its own unique movement vocabulary to bring it life, Ellingson said.

The white rabbit, played Annie Estes, is always rushed. Estes’ moves are quick and precise, with lots of jumps and a fusion of classical and contemporary dance.

Hailey Barlow plays the Queen of Hearts and dances on pointe with a quirky repertoire.

“It’s very balletic and technical, but also hilarious,” Ellingson said.

Dania Sinzu plays a dodo bird and a jabberwocky. Her dodo bird is sweet and seems to float. (She also rides a giant tricycle on stage.)

Her jabberwocky takes a dark and almost sinister turn, though, as it haunts Alice’s nightmare.

Local actor and director Bob Berky worked with all the students as theatrical director for the show. He coached everyone from the young mushrooms to the senior leads to make sure their physicality conveys the story.

The show features students of all ages, some as young as 6 years old, along with members of Contemporary Dance Wyoming, the professional modern dance company in residence at Dancers’ Workshop. It also showcases a variety of dance from ballet to modern to a little hip hop and even some ballroom, Ellingson said.

“I think the story about ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is such a journey through imagination and it’s so absurd and it’s just so out there,” Ellingson said. “What I’m excited about is for people to just come and take the journey with us and just enjoy all the students’ hard work and the hysterical characters that weave in and out of the storyline alongside the gorgeous sets and costumes.”

“Alice” is not a holiday story, but Dancers’ Workshop’s annual big production brings the community together, Kucera said. She’s always amazed at how many people attend the winter dance production.

“It’s turned into a holiday tradition,” Kucera said. “It doesn’t really matter what show it is.” PJH

Dancers’ Workshop’s “Alice” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday. The cost of admission is $28 adults, $18 students for Friday, Saturday evening and Sunday shows and $23 adults, $13 students for the Saturday matinee. A “Meet the Characters” autograph session will occur on stage following the Saturday matinee.

 


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