Dancing down the rabbit hole
The Salt Creek Ballet performs "Alice in Wonderland" April 20 and 21 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts.
‘Alice in Wonderland’
by the Salt Creek Ballet
Center Theatre at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie
2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21
(847) 673-6300; www.northshorecenter.org or www.saltcreekballet.org
A classic tale will be told without words when Salt Creek Ballet presents “Alice in Wonderland.”
The imaginative production, featuring around 40 talented young dancers plus professional guest artists, will be performed on Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.
The production, which was choreographed by Salt Creek Ballet’s Artistic Director Sergey Kozadayev and Susan O’Connell, a former member of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, was first staged in 2001. This is the fourth time it has been presented in the Chicago area.
Kozadayev said that the company reprises the show every two or three years because, “A new generation is ready for such material. It is very good to wake up the fantasy and creativity of the kids on both sides — for dancers and for viewers.”
The artistic director described the source work by Lewis Carroll as “a big improvisation.” The two choreographers took advantage of that characteristic. “You can choose any chapter and put it together in any way that you feel is better to entertain the audience,” he said.
The show opens with author Carroll sitting at his desk writing about Alice’s journey when the Cheshire Cat suddenly appears. “Cheshire Cat in my version is like Lewis Carroll himself, guiding Alice through Wonderland,” Kozadayev explained.
Alice’s adventure begins with a trip down a rabbit hole. Sixteen-year-old Nicole Gibson of Hinsdale plays Alice. Nicole described Alice as “a sweet little girl who is tired on a hot summer day from listening to her lessons — and has this huge imagination.”
The Hinsdale Central High School sophomore, who has been dancing for 13 years, was excited when she was cast in the role. “It didn’t hit me when I first was told that that was my part,” Nicole said.
She doesn’t consider herself the star, though. “’Alice’ is not the typical ballet where one person is featured and everyone else is there in a duet or a trio or corps,” she explained. “Everyone’s part is special and very important to the production.
“It’s more of a theatrical ballet,” Nicole continued. “So there’s a lot of acting involved. There’s only about four roles that are on pointe. Everyone else is on flat.”
Nicole’s credits with Salt Creek include playing the lead role of Clara in “The Nutcracker” four years ago. She plans to have a dance career.
Starting Alice on the adventure is 17-year-old Nina Lewis of Schaumburg as the White Rabbit. The Schaumburg High School senior has been dancing since she was 3, primarily at the School of the Salt Creek Ballet. She has been a company member since her sophomore year.
Once Nina comes on stage as the White Rabbit, the chase is on. “I get the tray of treats and the whole scene [Alice] is chasing me around because she wants the food,” Nina said.
For the role, Nina wears a top hat with rabbit ears on it, a white jacket, purple bow tie and white and purple striped pants with a rabbit tail.
Playing the White Rabbit requires diverse dancing skills. “There’s a little bit of tap dancing in it and there’s ballet in the rabbit hole scenes,” Nina noted.
The dancer said that this show is fun because, “The whole ballet, everyone gets to be really goofy.”
Nina plans to major in dance at college and then pursue a professional dance career.
Kozadayev believes that dance is a perfect way to share Carroll’s tale with audiences. “Ballet is a universal language,” he declared. “You don’t have to translate. Body language all people understand.”