All the kooky characters of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland come alive in Septime Webre’s dance interpretation of the 1865 novel that Colorado Ballet premiered last night at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver.
The nonsensical story is re-imagined in this colorful, razzle-dazzle contemporary ballet with shades of Cirque du Soleil. Unless you are an aficionado of Lewis Carroll’s fantasy world and his anthropomorphic creatures, you will find it hard to follow the random story, so don’t even try. Just enjoy the extraordinary dancing that ranges from classical to modern to acrobatic. You will gasp at the lifts and athleticism and agree with Artistic Director Gil Boggs that “some of the dancers’ feet don’t ever seem to touch the ground.”
Colorado Ballet Principal Dancer Sharon Wehner is adorable as Alice. The petite seasoned veteran celebrating her 20th season with the company acts and looks very much like the curious little girl who falls down the rabbit hole. She has two particularly stunning pas de deuxs, one an athletic dance with the Cheshire Cat (Italian Domenico Luciano, a new principal of Colorado Ballet) and the other sweetly performed with the White Rabbit danced by Francisco Estevez.
Maria Mosina, also in her 20th year with Colorado Ballet, plays Alice’s mother in the prologue, and comes back to command the stage as the wicked “off-with-their-heads” Queen of Hearts. Her pas de deux with the King of Hearts (Luciano) is electrifying.
Students from Colorado Ballet Academy have roles as baby flamingos, cards, piglets, daisies, doors, and the cutest little hedgehogs somersaulting around as croquet balls.
The radiantly rich costumes by Liz Vandal and the simple but dramatic floor-to-ceiling sets by James Kronzer (both borrowed from Washington Ballet) add immensely to the whimsical quality of the production. The first act is pretty in pastel; the second act is resplendent in red. Pulleys and puppets are used throughout. Puppeteer Eric Van Wyk has created an ethereal dragon-like Jabberwock with a 25-foot wing span that fills the stage in Act 2. After the Caterpillar smokes a hookah pipe, he morphs into a beautiful blue butterfly who “flies” high above the stage on diaphanous wings. The spectacles are simply breathtaking.
The music by Matthew Pierce, performed live by the Colorado Ballet orchestra, is pleasant, melodic and danceable enough to stand on its own rather than just as accompaniment.
Though Alice in Wonderland is a children’s book, the ballet may not hold the attention of children due to its chaotic nature. Probably best to leave the kiddos at home.
Remaining performances of ALICE (in wonderland) are as follows:
Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 2 p.m.
Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 21, 2016 at 2 p.m.
Friday, February 26, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 2 p.m.
Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 28, 2016 at 2 p.m.
Ticket prices range from $30 to $155. To purchase tickets, visit www.coloradoballet.org or call 303-837-8888 ext. 2.