Alice in Winter Wonderland by the Residentie Orkest and De Dutch Don’t Dance Division (DDDDD): how did this fantastical dance performance come about? We asked those behind the project to explain.
Carl Davis, conductor and composer/arranger
“Back in 1995, dancer Derek Deane, then the artistic director of the English National Ballet, asked me to compose ballet music to go with the story of Alice in Wonderland. But, he said, it has to be music from Tchaikovsky! That was a real challenge. I found a lot of things I could use in Tchaikovsky’s 24 short piano pieces Album for the Young as well as in his orchestral suites. I linked each character to a musical motif or theme. There had to be a waltz in there too of course; that was the famous waltz from the Fifth Symphony.”
Thom Stuart, DDDDD’s artistic director alongside Rinus Sprong
“A few years ago, I found the CD of Alice in Wonderland in a shop in New York, with ballet music by Tchaikovsky. The musical link with Lewis Carroll’s fairy tale sent my imagination running wild. This could be an amazing dance performance! There was just one problem: there is no Tchaikovsky ballet music of that name! It turned out to be a compilation of music that the composer/conductor Carl Davis had forged into a single whole. Each character has its own music, just like in the Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. Thanks to that, it really has become Tchaikovsky’s fourth ballet!”
Thom continues, “Not long after this musical discovery, I saw a number of Escher’s works. One of them was Metamorphosis II, with the game of chess transforming into birds, fish, bees and lizards. Then I thought ‘bingo’, because there’s a game of chess in Through the Looking-Glass (the second Alice book). So that’s how the rough lines of the new performance were sketched. Everything in Escher’s black and white and lots of magic in the set as well as in the dance and gesture. In other words, Alice in Escher’s Wonderland.”
Ballet dancers Rinus Sprong and Thom Stuart founded De Dutch Don’t Dance Division in 1996 with the aim of promoting dance in all its forms and for all ages. And they do it in grand style! For the past 13 years, DDDDD has among its various other activities put on a spectacular ‘community act’ dance performance each Christmas.
Kenza Lee (born 2000 in Belgium) started dancing when she was only four years old. Her great talent, developed through years of training, was apparent right from the beginning. Kenza has had success in international ballet competitions and recently danced a leading role in ODD Continent’s musical Morning Blossoms. Kenza has been dancing with De Dutch Don’t Dance Division since 2017. And how!
All 260 of the superb costumes worn in the performance were designed and made by Sabrina Zyla and Ben Voorhaar of Karisma Costumes in Gelsenkirchen. Just take a moment to imagine the logistical nightmare involved in putting on and/or changing every costume on the right dancer in the right size at the right time.
Auditions and rehearsals
There are in total 127 dancers in ‘Alice’, ranging in age from five to 80. And every single one of them – be they ballet student, professional or amateur – was auditioned for their role. Some 442 dancers auditioned! Since October, the chosen ones have been in rehearsal at least twice a week because high-quality performances involve lots of hard work and sweat.
Escher’s transforming masterpieces Metamorphosis, Relativity and Three Worlds serve as a surrealist backdrop to the magical world of Winter Wonderland.
“There are 52 of us musicians in the orchestra pit and we can’t see any of the performance at all. However, we experience everything intensely: the backstage bustle, the nerves of the dancers and crew, and in the auditorium, the enthusiasm and joy of the audience. And, of course, we’re able to perform that beautiful music for everyone!”
Six full houses
Six standing ovations
1,000 happy people – six times!