We've seen her chasing white rabbits. We've seen her spar with a mad-hatted Johnny Depp. Now we can see doe-eyed Alice step through the looking glass and onto the stage with a pretty pirouette as San Diego Ballet brings its version of Alice in Wonderland to the stage this fall.
Choreographed and directed by Javier Velasco, Alice: Wonderland is a mixture of classic ballet and modern dance, infusing elements of hip-hop into the show to give it a fresh perspective. The production emerged from a collaboration with the hip-hop dancers at Culture Shock San Diego and Young Audiences of San Diego six years ago and has been performed sporadically since then. This will be the last performance—2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14, at the Lyceum Theatre, Downtown (sandiegoballet.org)—before a long hiatus, and Velasco has added some new choreography.
"The thing with hop-hop dance is that it stays very current," Velasco says. "So that has to change to stay new."
With this fusion of styles, Velasco believes that everyone in the audience will be pleased with the performance. The classical-ballet aficionados will see plenty of girls in leotards, and those who prefer contemporary styles will be dazzled by dancers pop-locking and doing back spins.
In casting and choreographing the show, Velasco carefully considered the characters to ensure that their movements were appropriate, going so far as to have some perform specific styles of dance. The Mad Hatter, for instance, works purely in hip-hop, as do Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. The White Rabbit and the Cards stick to ballet.
"Different characters actually have different movement qualities," Velasco says. "It gives you a richer perspective you can draw from."
He adds, "The story is very reliant on language, and because this is a ballet with no language, some of the characters of Alice in Wonderland didn't translate to dance movement. The ballet takes some characters from The Looking Glass and condenses them into one character."
With a story as strange as Alice in Wonderland, staging and set design will play an important part. Velasco made sure to paint the picture with lots of color and creative costumes, designed by Marcia Averett, to make sure the audience is transported down the rabbit hole along with Alice. Alice drowning in a sea of her own tears, for example, is accomplished by a group of ballerinas swishing around her in blue outfits.
"The ballet has very lush moments," Velasco says. "It will look very surreal because the story itself has a very surreal quality to it."
Velasco believes the performance—and dance in general—transcends language and cultural barriers and appeals to diverse audiences. The storytelling is in the movement.
"This ballet works with so many different audiences," he says. "One of the good things about dance is that it's non-verbal. It doesn't matter if you don't speak English when you see ballet."
Ding, ding, ding: Trolley Dances are back, bringing six debut pieces to stops along the MTS trolley line. Each site-specific piece is performed by members of Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Theatre, starting at the Grossmont Transit Center in La Mesa. This year, circus duo WillyGood will also perform. Two tours will leave every hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 29 and 30 and Oct. 6 and 7. $10-$30. That's six tours daily. sandiegodancetheater.org
Maliphant in the room: Energy, flow and light will be explored in Russell Maliphant's show, Afterlight. The British choreographer once again teamed up with his long-time collaborator, lighting designer Michael Hulls. Together they created a hauntingly hypnotic piece inspired by Russian dancer Vaslay Nijinsky's drawings as he suffered from schizophrenia. The company performs on Oct. 11, at UCSD's Mandeville Auditorium. Stick around after for a talk with the artists. $11-$46. artpwr.com
Do the local motion: San Diego Dances returns this year with new works by the PGK Project, run by choreographer Peter G. Kalivas, Khamla Somphanh, Opus Mixtus Dance and Viviana Alcazar. Performances happen on Oct. 26 and 27, at Spreckels Theatre (121 Broadway Circle, Downtown). Tickets are $10-$20. thepgkdanceproject.org
Total shocker: Malashock Dance Company returns this year with Malashock / RAW 3. Producer Michael Mizerany promises that the show will push boundaries further than ever, with new choreography from John Malashock and guest choreographer Regina Klenjoski. Performances run Oct. 18 through 28. malashockdance.org
Blood suckers: In the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, we saw puppets tell the story of Dracula with humor and operatic gusto. California Ballet is now taking a stab at the age-old tale of undead love with its ballet, Dracula, choreographed by Charles Bennett Capes. Performances are Oct. 27 and 28 at the San Diego Civic Theatre (1100 Third Ave., Downtown). Tickets are $22-$60. californiaballet.org
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