As Alice performs a triple pirouette, so does her reflection. And when she springs, interlacing limbs as she turns in the air or surges like an arrow from a quiver, her mirror image matches in perfect synchronicity. With every step, Alice and her reflection are one, appearing as one person in seemingly one reality. But if there’s anything to be learned from Alice in Wonderland, it is that perception and reality do not always match.
That’s the story behind Ballet La Crosse’s “Alice in Wonderland,” opening its sixth season at Weber Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 24-25. Based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass,” the story is ostensibly meant to entertain children. However, one could easily argue it is intended for adults as it poses philosophical questions in a nonsensical but fantastical world where curiosity can lead to trouble or truth.
“Alice in Wonderland” was originally choreographed by Kennet Oberly, Ballet La Crosse’s late ballet master, for a professional company now known as American Midwest Ballet. Ballet La Crosse is maintaining the integrity of that choreography, meaning it will begin its sixth season with a professional-level production.
Led by local dancers Brooke Baldner, 16, and Grace Vannucchi, 15, both of Onalaska, Ballet La Crosse was able to cast the show entirely in-house due to its rigorous training program through Misty’s Dance Unlimited, where the ballet company is based. Baldner and Vannucchi have each danced for 12 years, and for the past four years have studied in the pre-professional ballet program at MDU. Just like professional ballet dancers, they train more than 30 hours a week, as do others in lead roles.
The classically-styled production begins much like the book that inspired it, with Alice and her sister enjoying a lazy afternoon beneath a tree. Soon, however, a white rabbit hurries by. Alice can’t resist the temptation to run after the curious but elusive distraction and meets her reflection in a mirror. Eventually, the rabbit rushes by again and Alice follows. Deserted, Alice’s reflection is left to wander through a series of adventures in her own nonsensical world, but which world is real is open to interpretation.
Is the real world filled with beings we don’t understand and find strange, or is that the wonderland? Is the unknown something to be feared or something to be explored and understood? Is the unfamiliar land truly nonsensical or is it nonsensical only because it is foreign?
With some degree of poetic license and surprising twists and turns in the tale, Ballet La Crosse explores these questions common to humanity through the magic of dance—ultimately challenging us to discard preconceived notions when faced with the truth.
Ballet La Crosse will perform “Alice in Wonderland” at Weber Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, Nov. 24, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 25, at 2 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.balletlacrosse.com or www.webercenterarts.org.