For over 150 years, the fantastic adventures of a young girl named Alice in a magical place she calls Wonderland have been delighting audiences in print and on screen. The story, with its imaginative visuals and expressive characters, was a natural for pantomime-like world of dance and ballet, according to Judith Gani, executive director of Alamo Arts Ballet Theatre (AABT).
Six years ago, Gani and her artistic partner Julie Morton Simpson created and choreographed an original ballet they call Alice! A Ballet Wonderland, which has been an annual performance tradition for the company until this year. On Sept. 22 and 23, AABT will give the final performances of Alice! at the Carver Community Cultural Center’s Jo Long Theatre.
The ballet opens as Alice follows the White Rabbit down a hole, where she meets enchanting characters like a Caterpillar (brought to life by four dancers at once), a mysterious Cheshire Cat, and of course, the Mad Hatter himself.
“Our artistic director, Julie Morton Simpson, is thrilled to have Wilder Herrouet returning to fill the role of the Mad Hatter, as he was the original Mad Hatter from 2012-2015,” Gani says with a smile. “Wilder was trained in Cuba and danced professionally in Cuba, Costa Rica, and the U.S. He brings an unsurpassed level of emotion to the role, and charming comedic acting as well, plus technical expertise and masterful partnering skills.”
Act One concludes with a mad tea party set to music of Tchaikovsky. In Act Two, Alice finds herself in the court of the Queen of Hearts, whose stubborn insistence on always being pampered and catered to brings plenty of laughs. After Alice beats the queen at croquet, disaster is averted by a quick-thinking Mad Hatter, who has plenty of tricks and gifts up his sleeve to satisfy the queen’s demands!
Gani says the finale of the program will stir your emotions. “You will gasp then applaud as the Mad Hatter lifts Alice overhead in a beautiful arabesque, and then you will shed a tear to see the Mad Hatter so sad and all the little oysters and flowers and butterflies and hedgehogs waving goodbye as Alice goes back home after her adventures in ballet wonderland.”
Besides the artistry and athleticism of the dancers themselves, Gani likes to point out the design of the show also adds to its allure. “Our costumes, designed by Martha Penaranda, are continually upgraded. What were once leotards for the Rose corps de ballet back in 2012 are now fitted professional tutu bodices, giving the show an elegant look. And our lighting is now professionally designed by Mike Palmer and adds to the beauty and emotional impact of the work.”
In addition to the public performances this month, AABT also performs Alice! for school children during the day on Friday, Sept. 21. Gani says it’s part of AABT’s mission to share the artistry of ballet with kids who may not otherwise be able to attend through free performances such as this and the various lecture-demonstration performances they give throughout the year at schools in San Antonio.
Don’t miss your opportunity to visit Wonderland once more with Alamo Arts Ballet Theatre! Performances are Saturday, Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 23, at 3 p.m. at the Carver Center’s Jo Long Theatre. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or at the Carver box office.
[NOTE: This production is not a presentation of the Carver Community Cultural Center or the Carver Development Board.]