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Alice in Wonderland (Act II) [1977, Chicago, McCormick Place]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0446
Run Time
0h 47m 4s
Date Produced
"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.

This video represents a rehearsal of Act II of Alice in Wonderland during April of 1977, presumably just before its premiere in McCormick Place.
The video opens with an ESL of a stage, where Alice dances with her own reflection (played by another dancer) in a looking glass (represented by an empty frame). She eventually follows her reflection through the looking glass and offstage. through the looking glass and offstage. A knight on his horse then appears, calling "Ahoy" to Alice as she returns to the stage. He eventually falls over and says "You're my prisoner," to which Alice responds, "But I don't want to be your prisoner," and, helping him up, "I want to be a queen with a golden crown." The knight promises, "And so you will be.  I'll see you safely on your quest. But we will face great dangers: the awful Jabberwoke; a trip through the milky way, where we shall meet strange heavenly bodies and asteroids, and all the powerful forces of the zodiac, who will try to influence you." Alice responds again: "Oh, let's go!"

After Alice helps the knight up several more times, he exits and the Jabberwok appears. Alice is afraid and calls for help. The knight then reenters (without his horse) to rescue Alice; after circling it briefly with his sword raised high, he chops the creature in two.  The two halves stagger around, continuing to antagonize Alice. After being attacked by the knight again, the two halves exit on opposite sides of the stage, and Alice thanks the knight for saving her from "that terrible Jabberwok." 

A group of dancers then enters the stage, but the video is too distant to completely make them out. Most are arranged in a row along the back, but a few other dancers enter out front, near Alice and the knight. The two look on and watch the others perform, walking around and through their mesmerizing formations. Eventually, large scarves drop down from overhead and the dancers take them up. As they all complete their dance, they run offstage with the scarves over their heads; Alice and her knight then run off as well.

Next, a group of strangely shaped "celestial bodies" enters and dances across stage one at a time. Eventually, they all congregate onstage and perform an ensemble dance. When Alice arrives, she leads the celestials in circle dances, dividing them into three sets. Suddenly, a unicyclist enters and interrupts them. He performs tricks to entertain the group, with prop help from Alice, and eventually leads the whole group offstage on his unicycle. He returns momentarily on a tiny tricycle and bows with Alice before exiting again with her.

Then more dancers enter from each side of the stage, pulling behind them large rectangular structures on wheels, featuring staircases within them, containing yet more dancers. Once all dancers have exited the contraptions, they are pulled back offstage and an ensemble dance begins.
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)