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Alice Through the Looking Glass (Orchestra Rehearsal Act II) [1977]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0478
Run Time
0h 44m 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 and Alice Through the Looking Glass," premiered by the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 1971. Music for this extended version was pieced together from many composers. Its Chicago premiere was in April 1977 at the Arie Crown Theatre in the new McCormick Place.

This video represents an "orchestra rehearsal" (perhaps the first time the dancers were rehearsing with live piano music) of Act II, of "Alice Through the Looking Glass" in 1977, probably at McCormick Place. Only some dancers appear to be in full costume.
The video opens with an ESL of a stage, recorded from a vantage point far back in the auditorium. Alice stands at a frame (the looking glass) and dances with her reflection, eventually following it (played by another dancer) through the looking glass and offstage. A knight on his horse then appears, calling "Ahoy" to Alice as she returns to the stage. He eventually falls over and says "You're my prisoner," to which Alice responds, "But I don't want to be your prisoner," and, helping him up, "I want to be a queen with a golden crown." The knight promises, "And so you will be.  I'll see you safely on your quest. But we will face great dangers: the awful Jabberwoke; a trip through the milky way, where we shall meet strange heavenly bodies and asteroids, and all the powerful forces of the zodiac, who will try to influence you." Alice responds again: "Oh, let's go!"

As the two begin their adventure together, voices are heard near the camera (and bodies have been seen occasionally crossing before it) discussing the staging of the scene. After Alice helps the knight up several more times, he exits and the Jabberwok appears. The knight then reenters (without his horse) to rescue Alice; after circling it briefly with his sword raised high, he chops the creature in two.  The two halves stagger exit on opposite sides of the stage, after which Alice thanks the knight for saving her from "that terrible Jabberwok." 

A group of dancers then enters the stage, but the video is too dark and distant to completely make them out. Alice and the knight at first stand off to the side in a spotlight; they then move toward the center, and pass individuals and couples dancing as they go. Eventually, large scarves drop down from overhead and the dancers take them up. As they all complete their dance, they run offstage with the scarves over their heads; Alice and her knight then run off as well.

Next, a series of (petite) individual dancers enter stage and perform little idiosynratic solos one and two at a time. Then, all come back onstage together and perform an ensemble dance; Alice soon joins them and leads each of three groups in circular runs. Just as they seem to complete their dance, a unicyclist enters and interrupts them. He performs tricks to entertain the group, with prop help from Alice, and eventually leads the whole group offstage on his unicycle. He returns momentarily on a tiny tricycle and bows with Alice before exiting again with her.

Then more dancers enter from each side of the stage, pulling behind them large rectangular structures on wheels, featuring staircases within them, containing yet more dancers. Once all dancers have exited the contraptions, they are pulled back offstage and an ensemble dance begins. Three soloists, two men in a pair and one female on her own, separate from the group and perform in front of it. The female soloist eventually leads all but one of the other dancers offstage; the remaining male dancer begins a solo, soon joined by a figure that had been crouching downstage--the figure remains hunched during the dance and ends it lying flat on the floor.  As the two exit, the female soloist reenters and begins a dance of her own. To complete the solo, she drops to a lunge and doubles down on the ground; as she does so, two male dancers run in upstage and perform a lively, acrobatic, adversarial dance together. While they do so, other dancers begin to enter behind them and watch--including Alice.  When they have completed their dance and bowed, they run toward Alice and bring her forward to dance an allegro solo before the others, pushing away any who try to intervene. Then a dancer in a large, awkward costume enters and dances a solo across the stage, followed by the male soloist from before, who dances acrobatically around Alice. She then joins the entire group in an ensemble dance. Eventually, all but Alice exit.

Alice then finds herself in a spotlight, joined nearby by another dancer in a spotlight. He soon approaches her and engages her in a long pas de deux. When they complete their dance, the male dancer slowly backs away from Alice, once again leaving her alone in her spotlight. Suddenly, a queen's shawl appears onstage and Alice picks it up; a large queen arrives after it and Alice offers to help put her shawl on straight. The queen acquiesces while explaining that even when she pins it down, there's no pleasing it. Then another queen arrives and, towering over Alice, the two perform a dance together.  Alice tries to join/follow along and fetches the fallen shawl again. Eventually, the two queens exit.

While Alice stands alone onstage, a voice near the camera entreats Henry (the conductor?) to "go right into" "the crown music." A dancer (the White Rabbit?) soon runs onstage carrying a wand, performing a dance with it that taunts Alice. Meanwhile, an image of a crown, projected on the back wall, taunts her even more and she jumps to grab it as she chases the White Rabbit. The video then skips forward, apparently to the finale, with a large group of dancers onstage together. Alice stands at the center, wearing a crown, and more groups march in to the lyrics about "creatures of the looking glass" and "the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me." Alice is ultimately lifted above them all as the two large queens enter from the sides, but then someone sneezes and all topple down. Alice is once again left alone in her spotlight, exclaiming "Oh, what a wonderful dream." Her spotlight goes out momentarily, and then the bows begin. Once all have bowed, the curtains begin to close, but open again as all break character. The video ends as a voice near the camera begins, "Yes..."
Additional Credits
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)