Photo Credit: Phil Wayes

Friday, April 17, 2009

Let's talk about 'Alice:' Setting the stage.

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.


lucius said...

way to be Mary Sue, B-fly. Just kidding. Congrats on the dance.

A said...

Momma B says it is Deja Vu! Momma B says I am very proud of you! Can't wait to see the whole thing, live an on stage! Merd!

Only 55 days to Texas!

Anonymous said...

Alice was one of my favorite ballet recitals when I was a girl, thank you for bringing back memories!