A local and original ballet celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
In 2012, Gail Choate-Pettit, director of the River Raisin Ballet Company, created and launched “The Alice in Wonderland Ballet”. It was performed again in 2017. The third 10th anniversary performance is scheduled for this weekend at the River Raisin Center for the Arts, 114 S. Monroe St.
The ballet will be staged at 7 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Choate-Pettit’s version is based on Lewis Carroll’s 1865 classic “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Through ballet and other dance styles, it follows Alice and the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole, into a strange land filled with now-familiar characters like the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter. Scenes include the tea party and the trial.
Stormy Davis is reprising her role as Alice.
In 2017, Alice was Stormy’s first major ballet part. Now she is a high school student.
“It has been a joy to work with Stormy as her dancing and artistry has matured. Her acting ability now feels like second nature,” Choate-Pettit said.
Sharing the role of Alice is Kynzie Riegel, who danced the role of Clara in the 2021 RRBC production of “The Nutcracker Ballet.”
Gabe Hileman, a former RRBC dancer and now company dance teacher, returns as the White Rabbit.
Elora Russell and Elise Spears share the role of the Queen of Hearts. Jeff Boze is the king of hearts. Josh Mohler returns as the Mad Hatter.
“Our leads are all wonderful,” Choate-Pettit said. “Josh always brings 100% of himself to every role he takes on for the ballet company. His high energy is contagious; young dancers learn so much just by watching him embrace the role.”
The entire cast includes 75 dancers, ages 6 to adults.
“Our youngest dancers dance the roles of the animals in Caucus Race and the bees, butterflies, fireflies and dragonflies in the flower scene. They are adorable,” Choate-Pettit said.
Only one dancer is outside the company.
“We hired Andrew Pankiewicz, a dance student at Wayne State University. He dances the valet and associates very well with Alice. He also has natural acting ability and is quite humorous,” Choate-Pettit said.
This year, new backdrops for the Duchess and Flower scenes and an expanded role for the Cheshire Cat debut.
“We added a dance role for the Cheshire Cat, danced by Evelyn Short. There is more interaction in various scenes between the cat and Alice. We will still have the large Cheshire Cat puppet that fills the stage with black light and is covered in fluorescent colors. It is maneuvered by puppeteers wearing black light morph suits,” Choate-Pettit said. “Of course, the last image before the curtain closes is the famous smile that everyone knows.”
Costume designer Dyanne Howland has created a new costume for the Cheshire Cat dancer and a new Cheshire Cat puppet.
Although the show is a ballet, other dance styles are also featured.
“I love that this ballet offers so many different dance styles, including classical ballet, neo-classical ballet, contemporary and modern,” Choate-Pettit said. “The ability to project character roles is important, and students develop their acting skills through choreographed movement and mime.”
Several of the dances are particularly difficult.
“The senior girls dance the royal costumes in Act II. This neo-classical style piece is quick and difficult. A lot of rehearsal time was spent on its unison and precision,” Choate-Pettit said. “Alice and the valet perform a pas de deux (dance duet) in several scenes; pairing people who have never danced together before takes time to develop a smooth and harmonious partnership.
“Alice in Wonderland” includes several special effects. The trapdoors and projection give the illusion that Alice is falling down the rabbit hole and traveling through time.
“This show has quite a few stages as Alice travels through Wonderland. We use backdrops, projections and video clips to quickly switch scenes. We take advantage of a stage extension that has two trapdoors. The White Rabbit disappears and appears through the trapdoors,” Choate-Pettit said.
Choate-Pettit’s assistant is Melissa Moore, the company’s assistant manager, and several others.
“(Melissa) adapted and adjusted the choreography to suit the dancers and ensure quality and perfection,” Choate-Pettit said. “Karen Keith, assistant director, and I rehearsed over the weekend to help stage the ballet again. RRDA faculty member Claire Bechard re-choreographed Pool of Tears using a large silk fabric that creates the illusion of water. Another RRDA faculty member, Natalia De Miguel Annoni, re-choreographed Mist. The choreography has many levels creating texture and mystery with unique contemporary movement.
Choate-Pettit is delighted to see her ballet back on stage.
“The first production of ‘Alice’ dates back to 2012, the year I was battling cancer. Here I am 10 years later, grateful to be able to see this magnificent ballet come back to life on a new generation”, she said. declared. a Caterpillar segment. While photographing a rehearsal, I looked inside a Caterpillar segment and wondered if this young dancer would be the next lead in five years. It is gratifying to see the technical and artistic progress our students make over the years.”
Tickets are $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, and $18 for children. For tickets, visit RiverRaisinCentre.org or call (734) 242-7722.