|photo courtesy Avant Chamber Ballet|
Avant Chamber Ballet brought a family classic to life this weekend at Eisemann Center with Alice in Wonderland. Artistic Director Katie Puder and her creative dream team pulled off a fantastical production with live music, animated characters, and kitschy set design. A charming cast featuring young students alongside seasoned veterans made for entertaining dynamics that lifted the audience spirit. We fell down the technicolor rabbit hole with them and had a blast.
Original composition by 16 year-old wunderkind Chase Dobson was as whimsical as the story. His ability to combine the concepts of craft and creativity at such a young age only illustrates his maturity as a musician. His alliance with Puder can only lead to greater things. Madelaine Boyce as Alice made her way through the antics strong and steady. At certain points, Puder laced a few references to Swan Lake in her choreography; a clever homage. Dallas Blagg was flawless with his entourage of slinky caterpillar legs, ladies dressed in gorgeous green goddess unitards and pointe shoes. An audience favorite, soloist Rachel Meador played a coy and sassy Cheshire Cat. One wink of her eye and she was, ahem, the cat’s meow.
Yulia Ilina nailed her role as the stern Queen of Hearts. With legs that start at her neck and a commanding stage presence, no one else could have portrayed the character better than she did. Dancers in enormous tutus cut like playing cards trembled with knocking knees in front of a smoky red backdrop. Dobson’s score for “The Queen and Crochet Match” was intimidating and ominous, a perfect precursor to Alice’s trial. Juliann Hyde as the White Rabbit was another charismatic trickster who paired well with Alice’s naivety, and helped maintain a cohesion that could have otherwise been lost in the mayhem.
Besides her panache for staging classical works, Puder’s fun deviation into a story ballet was a success. She’s doing a wonderful thing. Pulling talent from every corner of the artistic community and giving them a home to grow is ambitious and thoughtful. Whatever rabbit hole she decides to fall into next, I’ll blindly follow.
-April 13, 2014