Bye bye, Swan Lake. Hello, Aliss.
Nothing could have looked more conventional than Ft. Worth Dallas Ballet’s 1999-2000 schedule full of Nutcrackers, and Alice and Wonderlands and Peter Pans.
Sometime between the mailing of season brochures and Friday night, Alice because Aliss and Ft. Worth Dallas Ballet turned hip.
Never any great shakes at Swan Lakes anyway under Benjamin Houk’s short tutelage, the company embrace it’s brave new future Friday with a bang. Lot’s of ballet company’s have something like Principia, however, even if Ft. Worth Dallas Ballet has never ventured so far into contemporary ballet.
Aliss is another matter. The creation of Trey McIntyre, it was ballet out on a limb, a witty, scrambled, and phantasmagoric updating of Lewis Carroll’s already surreal tale. Aliss watches a giant television with wide-eyed wonder, clicking the remote control with furious intensity. After freakish puppets gyrate and disappear, another few passionate clicks short circuit the set. Smoke curls out of it’s black innards and a dapper, sinister White Rabbit – played to perfection by Valentine Liberatore – materializes in the dark. From then on, all the characters – the undulant caterpillar, drag queen on steroids Duchess, the Had Matter, mock turtles, Queen and Cat named Hoosie-Moofis-Fitty-Stank – emerge from a huge, many-layered platform, and act out their cartoonish, over the top whims. The Duchess, leering as she rearranges cone shaped breasts, stalks an amazed Aliss. The White Rabbit hods out a paw like a railroad crossing bar, the sidles over to Aliss for a dance.
The music cuts back and forth from terrifically stirring strains from Carmen to lounge music to Sammy Davis Jr., stopping dead mid-passage and then lurching on.
As mind-boggling as all the action is, the real source of whit comes from Mr. McIntyre’s wedding of movement to character, and his ability to pare to the bone. The White Rabbit’s reaching with his paw, the mock turtle’s sinuous rise and fall, the Queen’s pouncing leaps – all looked etched in acid. Carroll would have approved.”
Ft. Worth/Dallas Ballet had a blast with it. Filled with trendy cultural references, the multi-media Aliss had big event buzz. McIntyre’s pre-teen, 90’s Aliss didn’t tumble into a rabbit hole – she stepped through a giant TV, into a psychedelic video land.
At more than 45 minutes, Aliss feels bigger than a one act ballet. It was a riot of zany humor, less physically intense than McIntyre’s abstract works for Houston Ballet, where he is Choreographic Associate. His eclectic piece combined classical pointe work and jazz.
McIntyre’s heroine kept a finger planted on a remote control to move between scenes. He must have crated his score the same way. Snatches Georges Bizet’s Carmen, performed live by the Ft. Worth Symphony, collided with original and recorded music, including disco and smooth crooning by Sammy David Jr. Behind a movable metal scaffold, yellow and red lights spiraled on the back wall.
If ever there was a story so adapted to hte blender treatment, Louis Carroll’s Tale is it.
His caterpillar was a sinuous platinum blonde in a glittering white unitard. Meredith Reffner was intoxicating in the role, with a hookah made of TV cable.
At one point, Aliss stumbled into a talk show where a domineering hostess in drag refereed a battle between a goofy couple with a rubber baby. In a forest of billboards, she grew a huge arm after drinking a gallon of liquid. The arm was nearly as tall as the petite dance in the lead role, Marcella Ducsay; it led to some gymnastic choreography. The gag intensified when Aliss ate a big Oreo and grew a garganuan foot in a white toe shoe. Ducsay had good comic timing, confidence and charming spunk.
Much of McIntyre’s TV land was located on Broadway. His Cheshire Cat was a pot-bellied tiger, morphed from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats and his rock star raunchy “Had Matter” was accompanied by Bob Fosse inspired birds. Perhaps he likes old war movies, but he misfired with a lyrical pas de deux for a pair of soldiers in the world war one costumes of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Gloria. It’s somberness seemed out of place. The soldiers, however, lead Aliss to a red rose in the Queen’s garden, which she plucked.
Angela Amort, in an Elizabethan coat and thigh-high boots made from silky fabric and red toe shoes, ate up the stage and the vindictive Queen of Hearts. During her trial, Aliss was pursed by paparazzi in white tutus, a band of mock turtles, and a real TV camera, which fed close-ups to a monitor at the side of the stage. The monitor was too small, but commentary by a snippy reporter kept the audience wired.”