Studio West’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is a new show for local dancers

Contributing writerApril 18, 2014 

It might seem like odd timing for Studio West Dance Theatre to schedule its spring ballet the same weekend as the Procession of the Species.

But given that the company is presenting “Alice in Wonderland,” the timing is perfect, said Stephanie Wood, co-director of Studio West.

“Our show is so fantastical and so quirky, just like the parade,” Wood said. “We want people after they’ve seen the parade to come on over to the Minnaert and continue the festivities.

“We have a bunch of wild creatures in our show.”

Those creatures include a tap-dancing Mad Hatter, played by the school’s jazz teacher, Sarah Abderrazzaq, who has performed with the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, and a huge Cheshire Cat created by Jenna Zechmann, who’s also worked on the company’s “Nutcracker” sets.

The cat appears and disappears with help from dancers.

“It glows in black light,” Wood said. “It’s probably 15 feet long and about 6 feet high. It’s a bunch of pieces. There are dancers who hold the body parts of the cat and make it come together, and then they separate and they swirl and then they come back together.”

The cat was inspired by the one in the Royal Ballet’s 2011 “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” But the Studio West production is an original. There’s no traditional ballet version of “Alice,” so Wood and ballet mistress Marianna Ramsour had more than choreography to contend with when they decided to translate the Lewis Carroll tale into dance form.

“The story is not the easiest to tell,” Wood said. “It’s such a fun story, but it doesn’t have an ebb and a flow to it.”

They combined elements from the Royal Ballet production with ideas from the popular Disney film and the original novel.

And they had to come up with their own score, which features music from “Wall-E,” “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Beetlejuice.”

“The movie soundtracks are really awesome for the dramatic effect of the ballet,” Wood said.

The whole process was a lot of work.

“It was kind of scary going into it,” Wood said. “We knew it was going to be a challenge, and I was a little wary of it, but I couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out.”

“It was quite a little bit of a challenge to get it all together and put it into steps and music and characters,” said Ramsour, who suggested doing “Alice.”

It’s a challenge she relishes.

“We’re very excited and nervous at the same time,” she said. “I kind of pushed a little bit to do this. I said, ‘Let’s be the first ones to bring it to Olympia in a classical ballet form.’”

But “Alice” is something different for dancers who are used to performing in “Nutcracker” and other standards. That offers the cast of about 100 young dancers a challenge. (Abderrazzaq is the only guest artist in the cast; the others are students at Studio West Dance Academy.)

Megan Meier, 16, a junior at Capital High School, dances the role of Alice and is on stage for virtually the entire ballet.

“Megan has a facility for acting, so it’s been a great journey for her,” Ramsour said. “She’s doing a great job.”

“It’s a really fun yet challenging character to play,” she added.

It looks to Wood as though the risk will pay off. She said, “A lot of the performers are telling me it’s their favorite ballet that they’ve ever rehearsed.”

Alice in Wonderland

What: Studio West Dance Theatre presents an original ballet version of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale.

When: 7 p.m. April 26, and 1 p.m. April 27

Where: Minnaert Center for the Arts at South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Road SW, Olympia

Tickets: $22-$24 general admission, $18-$20 for seniors and students, $15 for children 12 and younger

More information: 360-753-8586 or olytix.org or studiowestdance academy.com

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