Skip to main content

Kevin D. Bowles and Xiao Nan Yu with Artists of the Ballet in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Bruce Zinger

Title
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Genre
Dance
Directed by
Christopher Wheeldon
Company
National Ballet of Canada
Venue
Four Seasons Centre
City
Toronto
Runs Until
Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christopher Wheeldon is still tinkering. Even though his ballet Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has been a huge hit since its premiere in 2011, Wheeldon, it seems, is still looking for the better mousetrap.

Alice is a co-production of the National Ballet of Canada and London's Royal Ballet. The reviews on both sides of the pond have been gaga, with the work also scoring a major success in Los Angeles on the National's recent tour. Why would Wheeldon fix something that isn't broken?

The English choreographer's biggest change is making Alice into a three-act ballet. Admittedly, the first act had been overlong. As Alice now stands, the division is 47 minutes, 29 minutes, 47 minutes. And the new format does work well.

Story continues below advertisement

The new break falls between the "Pig and Pepper" scene and the "Mad Tea-Party." The former is so chaotic with the Duchess's sausage-making, her surly cook, and her pig baby, that it is a good place to end the act. Wheeldon has also added in a pretty pas de deux for Alice (Elena Lobsanova) and the escaping Knave of Hearts (Keiichi Hirano), he of the stolen tarts.

Sometimes serendipity can make something better. The Los Angeles Music Centre did not have a convenient trap door for the rabbit hole. In the original scenario, the White Rabbit (Dylan Tedaldi) and Alice entered the rabbit hole through Lewis Carroll's camera bag. For Los Angeles, Wheeldon changed the rabbit hole entrance to a jelly mould on the dining table, and liking that effect better, camera bag is out, jelly mould is in (although the synopsis still says camera bag).

Alice is a ballet that is still revealing its riches despite multiple viewings. For example, I just picked up this time round that the sleeves of Alice's little girl Victorian party dress come off in the tilted room/Pool of Tears (presumably to create a more comfortable dance outfit).

And then there is the dense opening garden party held at Alice's father's Deanery in Oxford. There is a lot going on given the interaction between the Liddell family, their servants and guests. If you are looking at one side of the stage, you miss something on the other.

As most characters are playing dual roles, you have to lock into the relationships, such as Jack, the disgraced gardener's boy, morphing later into the Knave of Hearts. Parsing this scene is still a fun-filled challenge.

Still, much to admire is how Wheeldon has coped with the episodic nature of Carroll's classic story, thanks to his ingenious creative team and composer Joby Talbot's ravishing score. Each vignette stands on its own.

I do, however, have a suggestion that I think would be very helpful for the audience. British dramatist Nicholas Wright did the scenario and his verbose synopsis is the ballet's guide. Much better would be a scene-by-scene breakdown (title and brief description), rather than Wright's complicated storytelling.

Story continues below advertisement

The main idea behind multiple viewings is to see different casts. Saturday afternoon featured some young Turks, as it were, and they certainly showed depth in the ranks.

First soloist Lobsanova is both lyrical and technical as Alice, a genuine rising star. Her portrayal, however, is a bit on the bland side. She still needs to find the sparkle. Corps de ballet member Tedaldi has been getting more and more significant parts, and with good reason. His Lewis Carroll/White Rabbit dances up a storm. Both dancers made their role debuts at this performance.

Among the more veteran company members is the always wonderful principal dancer Xiao Nan Yu (Mother/Queen of Hearts). She is imperious and hilarious at the same time.

First soloist Hirano is becoming more prince-like with each new outing. Second soloist Christopher Stalzer (Magician/Mad Hatter) and first soloist Brett van Sickle (Rajah/Caterpillar) also gave fine performances.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter