Ballet review: “Alice in Wonderland” has right amount of serious dancing and entertaining silliness

  • Photo courtesy of BalletMet
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From the February 13, 2014 edition

Little wonder that Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” stories have appealed to both young and old over the past century and a half, what with their whimsy, wordplay and anticipation of surrealism. Similarly, the ballet “Alice in Wonderland,” choreographed in 2006 by BalletMet Columbus’ then-Artistic Director Gerard Charles, has serious dancing for the ballet fans and enough entertaining silliness for the kid in all of us.

Combining episodes from both “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass,” Charles’ “Wonderland” is danced to a well-chosen miscellany of movements from the music of English composer Edward Elgar. Casts vary, but the strength of BalletMet ensures that you won’t see a weak performance.

With the help of unlighted assistants, Alice tumbles and floats down the cone-shaped brightness of the rabbit hole to a soft landing. Shadow magic enables her to grow enormous and tiny. Her tears of despair pool into a flood that carries away chairs, forks and birdcages. A mirror reflects a deeper reality, revealing four distinct Alices who leave our heroine contemplating the mysteries of identity.

Where Act One strings adventure after adventure, Act Two finds time for a romantic duet between the White Queen and the Red King, carrying on a secret affair. After an extended dance with the flowers, Alice encounters the Mock Turtle and the intricacies of the Lobster Quadrille. Having paid homage to both courtly traditions and crustacean claws, choreographer Charles then moves on to the elegant ebb and flow of the chess game, the last of Alice’s wonders.