I got the honor of choreographing the opening scene for our production of Alice.
Last night was the first rehearsal-- Alice, Alice's sister, Dinah The Kitty Cat, and the understudies for all three. I decided to take it slow-- we had somedancers were very young and/or haven't worked with me very much.... plus we had music from a film version of Alice that wasn't easy to count. But even for "taking it slow," we got a lot done.
- - I started with the opening variation for Alice's sister, danced with a book in hand (I realized at the start of rehearsal that I also made a "book dance" for a story ballet last season. Go figure). Both dancers are young-- ages eleven and twelve-- yet they know how to work in a rehearsal. The two girls followed behind me as I demonstrated, and asked me very specific questions about counts and choreography. And when I switched over to work with Alice and Dinah, both Sisters retreated to the side of the room to continue practicing their variation. I was delighted at their strong work ethic.
- - Now: The Alice and Dinah duet. I needed a way to turn an eight-year-old ballet student into a [believable] kitten. Thankfully, I've been a cat-lady for the last fifteen years; and thankfully I've been wearing ribbons in my hair an awful lot these days. I think you know where this is going: In our version, Alice gets bored of her history lesson, takes a ribbon out of her hair, and uses it to entertain her feline friend (P.S.: Cats prefer ribbons over daisy-crowns. Take notes, Disney).
In short, it's really cute.
- - Dinah II (understudy) has worked with me for about two years and is used to being thrown around by me, so I demonstrated lifts with her (I haven't worked with the Main-Cast Dinah quite as much, and was afraid I'd freak her out if I started spinning her around upside-down right out of the gate. Which is an important consideration, because remember: we're working with kids, here). A second later, The Real Alice was catching her Dinah in mid-handstand and swirling her across the stage, broken toe at all (picture me witnessing this, biting my nails, and saying "be careful" ad nauseam), and everyone was smiling.
- - Turning back to Alice's Sister (by the way: does Alice's sister not have a name? I can't remember. Let's just call her Lorina for now), I gave the girls some choreography to do during the Alice/Kitty duet. Our time was running short, so we left Lorina's next demi-solo for the next rehearsal.
- - At the end of rehearsal we went to the large studio to show what we had to the director-- all six of us, main cast and understudies sharing the stage. Our director took a video for me, we got good feedback, I was told "it's really cute." I thanked my dancers for their work, patience, and focus.
- - Cut to: 9:30pm. I logged onto Facebook and saw that a one of the moms had posted about her "extremely happy and excited little dancer" who just couldn't stop doing her kitty-cat moves, and it made me smile in a big way.
- - On a related note: Mama Butterfly is coming to see this show, and I'm wondering how weird it will be for her to see this scene: she's heard that same music many, many times back when I was a little... and now she's seeing me make dances to it.
- - Also exciting: When I spoke to our director the other day, I told her about how I've been writing about our Alice production on my website (which she knows about), and I asked if I could possibly interview her /the other choreographers about their creative process for this ballet. She said yes! Stay tuned for more Wonderland stories.