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Mar 22, 2009 - The A.V.A. Ballet Theatre's fresh and sunny "Alice in Wonderland"
By Jack Neal
The A.V.A. Ballet Theatre’s presentation, in collaboration with the Reno Philharmonic, of “Alice in Wonderland” is as bright and sunny as a van Gogh painting.
Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, “The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland,” was published in 1865. Given the joyous dance presentation that opened last night at Reno’s Pioneer Center (3/21/09), Alice will remain forever young.
With gorgeous costumes designed by AVABT’s Alexander Van Alstyne, and marvelously creative choreography by the same Mr. Van Alstyne, it’s clear the company’s impresario is a jack-of-all-trades who, like the Mad Hatter, wears all kinds of hats with roguish elegance. The production’s able assistant is Miriam Allen, a gifted dance director of note in her own right.
“Alice” comes with glowing Don Smith lighting, handsome sets and set decorations, and an elegant score by Joseph Horovitz played by members of the Reno Philharmonic with the same care as if they were playing Mozart. The orchestra is conducted with dash, and sensitivity to the needs of dancers, by Nevada Opera’s Michael Borowitz.
The Horovitz is a rarely heard score that comes by its droll wit with a well-grounded history for musical whimsy. Horovitz provided choice musical sketches for the hilarious Hoffnung’s Music Festival concerts and recordings popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Hoffnung, a tuba player, loved thumbing his nose at upper-crust customs in music that were considered “erudite” and “superior.” Two of Horovitz’s contributions to Hoffnung’s concerts stand out: “Horrortorio” and “Metamorphosis on a Bedtime Theme.” Each gives insight into what Horovitz is up to as he breathes renewed life into the whimsical characters that have made their way from Carroll’s original “Alice” to this highly imaginative presentation.
From the Caterpillar, played with seductive grace by Nicole Shutt, to the Duchess’s mansion inhabited by the comedic Duchess of Doreen Begley’s creation and the Duchess’s pepper-fetish cook (Kathleen Bolotin), “Alice in Wonderland” never once loses its momentum to entertain. Eve Allen is Alice and she evokes the mix of youth, innocence and curiosity that has made Alice the endearing personality she is for over a century. Allen is given a great deal to do and she does it with the assurance of a beautifully groomed ballerina.
The Rose Garden, ruled with cold disdain by Katherine McCall as the haughty Queen of Hearts, also commands attention. As does the always-late White Rabbit who is danced with intelligence and energy by Aidan DeYoung. Beau Pearson dances the Knave of Hearts with authority and panache. Emily Adams is an exquisite Tiger Lily. Adams and Pearson are a captivating couple and dance the production’s understated, yet rapturous pas de deux with no hint of affectation. They are simply who they are – young lovers in Wonderland.
Each of the animals has its own vocabulary that charms. The Cheshire Cat (Michael Heredia), Dinah (Brylee Garcia), The Dormouse (Kelly Rubero) all charm, as do Bruce Lundstrom’s Mad Hatter and Colton Harrah’s March Hare. Also bringing pleasure is the duet of Tweedledee (Becca Kitchen) and Tweedledum (Jessica Evans), and the giddy, animated quadrille of lobsters which just have to please even the most dour. Not to be forgotten is the corps de ballet which shines it on as Act I’s Living Flowers and as Act II’s bouquets of Roses. With arm movements as precise as a Bach fugue and legs as nimble as prodigy’s fingers, these young dancers are a beautifully turned out matched set.
This impressive “Alice in Wonderland” is a feast of color and dance with a multitude of delectable delights. What's not to love about a land of wonder filled with adorable rabbits, butterflies, lady bugs, gardners and cards that move? The end result is simply to enjoy.
The AVA Ballet Theatre and the Reno Philharmonic’s “Alice in Wonderland” can be seen at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, 100 South Virginia Street, Reno, Nevada, Saturday, March 21 (2009) at 8 p.m. (the performance reviewed) and Sunday, March 22 (2009) at 2 p.m. For information call 775-686-6600.
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