BWW Interviews: Through the Looking Glass with Sonia Rodriguez
The National Ballet of Canada's production of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland just announced yesterday that it is sold out for the rest of its run. The city of Toronto appears to have fallen happily down the rabbit hole, as critics and theatre-goers alike rave about Christopher Wheeldon's new twist on the classic tale. The show had its North American Premiere on June 4th and has now sold over 25,000 tickets for the 13 performance run, making it the highest grossing main season production in the history of the company.
Sonia Rodriguez is one of the National Ballet's Principal dancers currently dancing the role of Alice. Recently awarded the Officer's Cross of the Civil Merit by His Majesty, King Juan Carlos I of Spain in recognition of her excellence in dance and her contribution to promote the Spanish Culture abroad, Ms. Rodriguez is once again dancing on Canadian stages and wowing audiences in the lead role of Alice.
Ms Rodriquez celebrated her 20th Anniversary with The National Ballet of Canada last year, and now is taking on what is arguably her most challenging role to take as she delves into her own personal Wonderland. BWW had the chance to talk with Ms. Rodriguez about what it has been like playing Alice, the challenges of being in a brand new ballet and about being both a mother and a dancer:
Congratulations on dancing the lead role of Alice in the new ballet Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. What has been the most exciting part of this journey so far for you?
It has been a long rehearsal period for the dancers and seeing the production take shape as each dancer brings life to their character has been amazing. We have finally moved into the theatre and now our Wonderland is complete with sets and costumes. I love performing it.
This is a brand new ballet, what types of unique challenges does that present for you as a dancer? How does the experience differ from performing an existing and well-known work?
I was familiar with the story and the character so that was a good starting point. As with any other work, we start by learning the steps and slowly add characterization. Knowing who you are and what your relationship is with the other characters is very important. The role of Alice is a challenging one as it demands great acting ability but is also very technical. The first Act is over an hour long and Alice is onstage the whole time, so it is also a challenge of endurance.
Given that this is a new ballet, were the dancers given the opportunity to put in feedback of their own and contribute to the development process in any way?
The production had already been set on The Royal Ballet so even though it is a new production in North America, the ballet is already choreographed. Because it is a very recent work, Christopher Wheeldon, the choreographer, made a few changes and added a few things here and there. He is an extremely detail-oriented person and knows exactly what he wants at all times.
Last year you celebrated your 20th Anniversary with The National Ballet of Canada - how have you grown and changed over the years? And how does that growth prepare you to take on such a classic role such as Alice?
As an artist, I feel like I have evolved and grown over the years. The experience of 21 years onstage and the broad repertoire of ballets that I have danced over the years gives me the confidence and knowledge when it comes to approaching a new work.
Without giving too much away, what would you say makes Alice's Adventures in Wonderland so unique? And what would be the main reason you would give to encourage a younger audience to come and see the show?
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is truly a thrilling and exciting show to watch. It is like no other ballet in the sense that it is much more than that. It is a full theatrical experience that the whole family will enjoy.
When you aren't dancing, do you get the chance to experience/explore other kinds of theatre? If so, did you have a favourite production over the last year or so in Toronto?
I find it very difficult to find time, between work and my family, to go to the theatre as much as I would like but I do enjoy it and try to get out and support other artists as much as I can. The last production I saw was Barrymore. Christopher Plummer was incredible in it.
On a more personal note, your husband Kurt Browning is a professional figure skater - in your opinion, what sport makes for the better athlete? Skating or dancing?
Even though dancing can be competitive, it is not a sport. I think figure skating is the most artistic sport there is and dance is probably the most athletic art form there is. Anyone involved in either, at the professional level, has to be a great athlete.
Finally, are you trying to raise your children to have an interest in both skating and dance? And is Alice's Adventures in Wonderland something you think they would enjoy?
Both my boys will definitely learn how to skate, I think it is a Canadian right, but that does not mean that they will become figure skaters. As for dancing, they are both musical and coordinated but they have not asked me to take ballet lessons. I will expose them to both but will take the lead from them.
They have both seen many of my performances and enjoyed them immensely. They are looking forward to coming and watching Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and I know that just like the rest of the audience, they are going to love it.