When “Alice in Wonderland” is mentioned, one might think of the children’s book, the quirky animation or the more recent mind-blowing 3D film.
Now think about the adventure written in dance, an idea even more irrational and bizarre than the twisted tale itself — but that’s precisely what made it work.
Cincinnati Ballet translated the story to the world of dance Sunday at Music Hall and called it “Alice (in Wonderland).”
When the curtain rose, Alice (Janessa Touchet) appeared in a blue dress and ballet slippers. The only other prop on stage was a blue throne, where she sat and read curiously.
Everything was white: The curtains to her left and right, the backdrop and the floor. The simplicity of the set was made more apparent by Touchet’s solo dance, but the modest scenery persisted throughout the show.
Surprisingly enough, it added to the complexity.
A colorful sheer curtain here and a table or two there were the only things needed to bring the story to life — the cast took care of the rest.
From the elaborate costumes, to the eloquence of the dancers, it was easy to overlook the lack of spoken word. Aside from Alice’s traditional blue and white dress the characters were depicted in a whole new way.
The White Rabbit (Cervilio Miguel Amador) spastically pounced around in a white coat patterned with clocks and two springy ears — one out of whack and slightly bent to the side.
The Mad Hatter (Zack Grubbs) did pirouettes in multi-colored, striped pants and a polka-dot shirt. He twirled around the stage wearing the infamous top hat on and contributing to the comedy with his facial expressions. Not even Johnny Depp, who portrayed the Mad Hatter in the 2010 movie, could pull that off.
The Queen of Hearts pointed her fingers and toes, condemning Alice to death. There was no need for the words “off with her head!” because the audience knew the hearts on her fiery red corset did not represent love. The heart-suited cards shuffled around her as she played Croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs as her equipment, and of course, she won.
Cincinnati Ballet conveyed the outlandish theme without the normal aspects of a story an audience usually relies on. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra had a lot to do with that.
The 55-musician ensemble provided suspense, comedy and sound effects when appropriate. Sunday’s performance was a world premier orchestration, said Victoria Morgan, artistic director and CEO of Cincinnati Ballet, and it corresponded to the show flawlessly.
Imagine strung out violins and suspenseful trombones when Alice drank a potion and grew 20 feet. This scene comprised one of the most astounding effects of the performance — Alice literally grew taller. Her dress got longer and out of the bottom poked two ballerina feet, balancing and tapping to the music.
As the delicate dancers tapped their toes to the notes, the simple setting and extravagant costumes combined for an impressive show.
The audience laughed as they witnessed Alice’s journey like never before, and left the theater with a new appreciation and interpretation of the classic tale.