BWW Reviews: New York Ballet Theatre Leaps Through the Looking Glass
New York Ballet Theatre's performance of The Alice-in-Wonderland in Follies was a vibrant, warm change from the bitter windy atmosphere that has been encompassing Manhattan. Although snow swirled around Chelsea, inside New York Live Arts the stage was warm and mystical. The set was simplistic, yet vibrant with character painted stage blocks, bright trees, and a backdrop that listed the coveted title. Some young audience members, possibly future prima ballerina's themselves, were eager to jump on the stage to take a snapshot prior to the performance starting.
The audience is taken down the looking glass journey through an aesthetically pleasing manner of props weaved into Keith Michael's choreography. Michael lifts you into the antics and tricks of Wonderland and allows for children to appreciate the visual aesthetic of a theatrical ballet, as well as keep the mood light and entertaining for all theatergoers. We first meet the punctual, intriguing rabbit, played by Steven Melendez, who brings sharp, athleticism to Michael's choreography. His interactions with Alice, played by Elena Zahlmann, emphasize a playful wittiness that heightens in Oh, You Beautiful Doll as they both bounce with enthusiasm and charm, moving through the choreography with light airy fun. One of the visually stimulating pieces for the younger audience members is the use of the mirror, while Melendez and Zahlmann are moving through the 'looking glass,' and the use of the white 'magic gloves,' all the time having a playful repertoire with each other. It stimulates our questions about Alice and the Rabbit's curiosity about each other, and whether or not Alice's journey is real or imaginary.
Along the way we meet a colorful array of characters, whose movement with props and costume changes excite the young viewers s they move through intricate steps and patterns. The Cheshire Cat, played by Amanda Treiber, has a fun set of antics with her long feathered tail that she chained around and almost used as a jump rope. It was exciting and visually pleasing for younger audience members. As the dancers take us on each 'story book' page, we encounter a prop filled, asymmetrical moving tea cup party that is enchanting and witty, the alluring Caterpillar in Glow Worm, and the enticing cards led by the resonant Queen of Hearts, played by Rie Ogura.
Moments that had myself and others leaning forward, and almost out of their seat in hysterics and intrigue, were Pig and Pepper, in which Mitchell Kilby and Seth Ives made their tricks and partnering look effortless. In addition, Kilby and Ives attracted my attention during the entire show, both for their excellent timing, humor, and overall stage presence they brought through every choreographic element in Wonderland.
I found an excellent transition and break between the fun loving and almost uplifting melody of each piece, especially when Jabberwocky appeared. It shook everything up, and Michael does an excellent job in having this piece transition to a new style and form of telling this tale in a more edgy elegance. The company sat on a row of blocks and did what seemed like a ten minute stepping piece while reciting the Jabberwocky tale. Not one company member stepped out of place or breathed. It was a number that encouraged you to clap along and test your own rhythm, although no one dared. It left the younger ears eager and wanting more.
New York Ballet Theatre brought a charismatic mood to New York Live Arts on such a dreary Saturday afternoon. I left the theater wishing my daughter was a tad older to attend a performance to delight in the tricks and mischief the Wonderland dancers took us on. I encourage all tri- state area families to attend a children's ballet of NYBT. They are sure to get a fun, imaginative afternoon from it!