Flawlessly designed ‘Alice in Wonderland’ premieres at Eisemann Center
The ambition of local choreographers just keeps growing. Katie Puder’s holistically conceived, flawlessly executed Alice in Wonderland for her Avant Chamber Ballet group is the latest example, marking another step forward for the North Texas dance scene.
With 12 main roles and about three-dozen supporting parts, Alice easily could’ve turned into a disorganized mess. Instead, Avant artistic director Puder and her large, well-rehearsed cast told Lewis Carroll’s surreal tale with a kind of perfect logic when the hour-long piece premiered last weekend at the Eisemann Center.
Seen Saturday afternoon in the first of three performances, Alice worked largely because Puder didn’t get too ambitious with her choreography or the design scheme, focusing on clarity in the storytelling and design elements that made simple, straightforward sense.
Painted, projected backdrops by Chris Campbell depicting the setting had a consistent, saturated-color look, and the 54 costumes by Puder, Ann Boyce, Robyn Igoe and Natalie Anton were color-keyed so characters and scenes could be easily identified.
Alice (Madelaine Boyce), for instance, wore a light blue Sunday dress, the feisty White Rabbit (Juliann Hyde) a white skirt and big red heart. Signaling their less-innocent demeanors, the Caterpillar (Dallas Blagg) donned bright-green tights while the sultry Cheshire Cat (Rachel Meador) was a vision in purple.
The mushroom chorus, 11 little ballerinas among the cast’s 21 child performers, donned red-and-black dotted caps while never detracting from the proceedings – at least not until the little-boy pages arrived late in the show. Little boys and focused discipline just don’t seem to go together. Nonetheless, Puder created well-delineated formations for the larger assemblies.
Her choreography also nicely balanced pantomime with the basic vocabulary of classical ballet, starting with a game of patty cake between Alice and her Governess (Yulia Ilina, later bringing her Eastern European-trained posture to the devilish Queen of Hearts).
With a spring in her step, the Rabbit arrived to lure Alice down the infamous hole during an early chase, the fall depicted with little fuss as Boyce landed on her backside under a spotlight.
Alice, buoyed by Chase Dobson’s deftly shifting score, frequently punctuated with narrative moments of percussion, stayed innocent for a long stretch. A darker shade emerged just before intermission with the Tea Party, turning even blacker for the Trial, among the 10 scenes from Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland depicted in Puder’s adaptation.