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Alice In Wonderland (Act I) [Pittsburgh]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0440
Run Time
0h 44m 14s
"Alice in Wonderland" is a ballet in 2 acts, based on Lewis Carroll's 1865 children's book. Originally choreographed by Michael Charnley (London, 1953) to music by Joseph Horovitz. Ruth Page's version was initially called "Alice in the Garden," (not yet a full ballet) with music by Isaac Van Grove. It was premiered in 1970 at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts. The piece was later realized as a full-length ballet: "Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass," premiered by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 1971. Music for this extended version was pieced together from many composers. Its Chicago premiere was in April 1977 at the Arie Crown Theatre in the new McCormick Place.

In this undated Pittsburgh performance of Act I, a beginning sequence with Alice among a group of children is present (it is absent from most other recordings of the ballet).  All dancers are in costume and applause is frequently audible.  Unfortunately, the footage is often fuzzy and the figures are difficult to make out.
The video begins with a shot of a pianist, who begins playing music.  It then pulls back to reveal a stage, upon which a group of children with butterfly nets enters and performs an ensemble dance.  Eventually, Alice joins them (and applause is heard).  She leads the group in more dancing and a circular march around the stage; eventually, all but Alice exit.  The White Rabbit then appears and performs a jumpy solo.  Once he exits, Alice appears to fall down the rabbit hole and lands in the splits; the White Rabbit then reappears and exclaims "I'm late" before exiting again.  Alice is then startled by the appearance of a maid with a large wooden spoon and then a nurse with a crying baby.  The two tease and taunt Alice while tossing the baby between them and sneezing.  Eventually, they exit with the baby (and the audience applauds); Alice is then joined by an amusing hat-juggler.  Soon the White Rabbit enters as well and assists his act while Alice looks on.  When the entertainment is complete, Alice exits with them.

Then, a group of men (performing the roles of playing cards) enters, each carrying and/or dragging a limp female dancer (meant to be flowers).  The cards lay all the flowers on the ground where they remain lifeless, even as Alice and the White Rabbit reenter and try to revive them.  A small child costumed as a moth (?) tries to disrupt the cards' activity, but to no avail; the three who then remain onstage perform an ensemble dance.  Afterwards, they begin standing up the limp flowers one by one, several of which follow them offstage as they exit.  The five remaining flowers then revive and begin to dance.   Three more then join them and one performs a brief solo at center.  The group completes its dance by splitting into two groups and striking a final 'bloom' pose; Alice enters to see them and (barely audible) wishes they could talk.  The flowers swarm around her, screaming, and usher her offstage.

As the stage remains momentarily empty, voices announce "Passion Flower" and "Tiger Lily."  A female soloist then enters, soon followed by a male.  The two dance a dramatic and lengthy pas de deux.  As they complete it and exit in a lift, the audience applauds; they return for a brief bow and exit again.  At this point, the White Rabbit returns to perform a quick solo and announce the Queen of Hearts.  The Queen scurries in and, trailed by two large lobsters, scares the Rabbit away.  They are soon joined by additional animals: an owl and two turtles; Alice and the White Rabbit return as well.  Soon the Queen and most of the animals exit stage and move into the audience; when they return to the edge of the stage, their introductory dance ends and the audience applauds.

Next, the White Rabbit introduces Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.  They enter and dance a silly pas de deux, grabbing Alice and bringing her in for a momentary pas de trois.  After their dance is complete the White Rabbit announces Humpty Dumpty, who is brought in on his wall.  He then performs a dance/balancing act.  At the end, of course, he falls, and all on stage mourn his death as he and his wall are slowly carted away.  The Queen then calls upon Alice to dance, but she explains she does not know how.  When the Queen responds, "Off with your head!" Alice decides to try: she then dances a perfectly competent solo.  When the rest call for an encore, she dances a dizzying finale and falls into the splits to finish.  To help out, the White Rabbit then gives her a dancing lesson, which soon becomes a pas de deux between the two.

After they complete the pas de deux, the White Rabbit announces the Catterpillar, who slinks in on his stomach, pushing his hookah in front of him.  After reaching center and smoking luxuriously for a few moments, he rises and dances a solo.  He soon grows tired, however, and lays back down, but the Queen then chases him offstage.  Afterwards, she pronounces that she is bored and commmands one of the lobsters to lead them in "The Lobster Quadrille."  They do so: the Queen and all of the animals begin dancing together and the White Rabbit and Alice join them after watching for a few moments.  All but the Queen complete the dance bowed on the ground, and they rise slowly, timidly, sporadically.

Suddenly, pandemonium breaks out on stage and someone (the Queen?) begins screaming--a storm is beginning.  Alice manages to procure an umbrella to share, but it is taken from her amidst the chaos.  Eventually a large group of flowers enters, swaying, as everyone but Alice exits.  She joins their dramatic swaying and then watches them all collapse under the weight of the storm.  After Alice laments the loss of her flower friends, they begin reviving themselves one at a time; the storm has ended.  Alice announces that perhaps it wasn't such a bad storm after all, and the flowers once again scream, swarming around her and ushering her toward the back of the stage.

Suddenly, the White Rabbit enters, trumpeting, and the flowers begin a lively dance.  Alice and the Rabbit intervene with a brief pas de deux, but then the flowers take over the stage with their ensemble dance.  This transitions into the finale: the various animals and characters introduced earlier come through one at a time with reprises of their dances (including Alice).  All but Alice and the Passion Flower exit briefly for their momentary pas de deux, but then all return for the final pose--which is interrupted by the passing of the Queen.  Finally, the curtain falls as the audience applauds.  The pianist then continues playing as the animals, then the flowers, the soloists, and finally, Alice come forward for bows.  After the whole cast then takes its final bow together, the curtain falls again and the audience applauds.  The video then goes black and ends.
Additional Credit
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Van Grove, Isaac (is composer)
Related Place
Pittsburgh (production location of)