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Alice in the Garden [1970, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0111
Run Time
0h 16m 7s
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," also sometimes referred to as "Alice through the Looking-glass."  Its Chicago premiere was in April 1977 at the Arie Crown Theatre in the new McCormick Place.

This film represents a recording of the original version performed at Jacob's Pillow.  All dancers are in full costume and women are all en pointe. The technique level of the dancers varies; the "flowers" appear to be students. The performance includes a few speech interludes, such as Alice's famous wish that the flowers could talk and their response that they can. The film canister label suggests that the role of Alice is performed by Joyce Cuoco. It further indicates that the film "starts with [a] berceuse" and continues "through flower dances" "and Passion Flower Tiger Lily pas de deux."
As the film begins, Alice is dancing dreamily with a doll. Then, somewhat menacingly, the white rabbit appears and dances an intimidating allegro while Alice looks on. He is shooed off by the appearance of some dancing flowers (indicating that Alice is in a garden). More and more flowers and plants appear, and all dance together on stage. Alice reappears to smell them; she exclaims that she wishes they could talk, and they then respond that they can! This is followed by a female soloist with a tambourine, applause by Alice and the flowers, and then a male soloist and applause. Next, the flowers bring a looking glass onstage (represented by a frame only). Alice dances in the mirror and sees her reflection (represented by a flower dancer). Once Alice and, the flowers, and the frame exit the stage, the soloists from earlier appear and dance a long pas de deux. After they exit, titles flash successively across the screen: "Alice in the Garden;" "Directed and Choreographed by Ruth Page;" "© 1970 by Robert H Savage." The film ends here.
00:08-01:42 - LS, Alice adagio solo w/ doll; occasional pans left & right as she moves through the frame; her feet/body are sometimes cut off 01:40 - Alice exclaims something indiscernible 01:43 - Cut to white rabbit allegro solo 01:47 - Cut which backs up a few counts; shows a repeat of an assemblé and two pas de chats; music is paused to allow dancing to catch up 01:56 - Pan left to reveal that Alice is still there; she watches from downstage right but camera follows rabbit 02:32 - Two more dancers appear from upstage right 02:40 - They move to center, it becomes apparent that they are flowers; camera follows them 02:49 - Out-of-place frame splice from a few moments later 02:52 - Two more flowers appear from upstage right (actually three; third comes into frame at 02:57) 03:06 - Cut slightly right 03:23 - Three more flower/plant dancers enter from upstage left. At this point the camera can no longer contain all of the dancers across the stage so it begins intermittent pans left & right 04:47-05:04 - Alice reenters from downstage left, smells the flowers as the slow into a pose at 05:00 05:05 - Alice exclaims about the flowers, wishing they could talk; they respond that they can; brief full-stage pandemonium until 05:28 05:30 - Flowers retire to upstage; Alice says something incomprehensible 05:39 - Quick pan right to another allegro solo: a female dancer with a tambourine (meant to be a bird or perhaps a thunderstorm?); camera follows her 06:44 - Film appears to slip 06:45 - Cut to a very tight framing of female soloist's body; feet often out of frame 07:18 - Female solo ends; flowers applaud 07:25 - Soloist bows to audience, flowers, Alice 07:33 - Soloist exist, followed by more flower hullabaloo 07:40 - Pan right to new figure, obscured at first by low lighting 07:46 - Figure begins solo, is discernibly male; camera follows him 09:06 - Male solo ends; flowers applaud 09:09 - Male soloist bows, exits stage left; flowers begin to follow him 09:14 - Stage and film go dark 09:20 - Cut to new plant solo 09:31 - Second plant enters stage right with human-size mirror frame (looking glass) 09:34 - Camera pans left to reveal second flower in mirror frame, third flower holding other side of frame 09:40 - Another flower (and then another) emerges from stage left, followed by brief dance and then group pose with frame; another flower enters 09:57 - Two flowers move the mirror frame from stage right to stage left, where Alice enters at 09:59 to look at herself in the mirror. She is mirrored behind by a flower. 10:04 - As Alice and this flower mirror poses, another flower enters from stage left and initiates a brief mirror pas de deux with Alice 10:42 - Camera follows Alice to her exit stage right 10:44 - Camera pans right to follow a five-flower dance with the mirror frame, now downstage center 11:28-11:40 - Flowers bourrée upstage and exit stage right with mirror frame 11:42 - Stage and film go dark 11:46 - Cut to tight LS following the tambourine dancer, re-entering stage right sans tambourine this time 11:49 - Cut to a slightly longer shot, better focus 12:04 - Re-enter male soloist from stage right; he joins female soloist in a standard pas de deux. Camera follows them together, occasionally straying to follow one or the other when they separate. 15:44 - Pas de deux ends and the pair exit stage left in a lift 15:48 - Stage and film go dark 15:56 - Text fills frame: "Alice in the Garden" 16:01 - Text fills frame: "Directed and Choreographed by Ruth Page" 16:06 - Text fills frame: "© 1970 by Robert H Savage"
Main Credits
Savage, Robert H. (is filmmaker)
Additional Credit
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Van Grove, Isaac (music)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Cuoco, Joyce (is performer)
Related Place
Becket (production location of)