Don't be late for date with 'Alice in Wonderland'

Don't be late for a very important date with Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and a cast of more than 80 dancers who will bring the classic tale of "Alice in Wonderland" to life this weekend at the Performing Arts Center at Gwinnett Center. Gwinnett Ballet Theatre presents "Alice," plus four contemporary works from its repertory, at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

"Alice in Wonderland" is a visual treat from many points of view. The sets and costumes are wildly colorful. The music is a combination of familiar melodies from Tchaikovsky, Ravel and Adam, among other composers. Michael Hollier's whimsical choreography brings "Alice" vividly to life.

Gwinnett Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Lisa Sheppard Robson is excited about the production. She says, "I am thrilled to be bringing 'Alice in Wonderland' back to the stage. It has been seven years since GBT performed 'Alice,' and many of our senior dancers who performed the smaller roles as little girls will now be performing major roles. In turn, our younger dancers can enjoy being in another large-scale production after 'Nutcracker.' 'Alice' is such a colorful and animated production, full of humor and fantasy. Michael Hollier cleverly constructed this fanciful, satirized journey through Wonderland. The ballet is filled with brilliant color, drama and adventure."

"We will have 87 cast members take the stage as the familiar and well-loved personalities of the 'Alice' story, but we also feature characters such as the Tigerlily, the Iris, Corabelles, the Rose, the Teapot and Teacups, Sugar Cubes, Hummingbirds, Butterflies, the Dragonfly, Garden and Enchanted Fairies and more," Robson says.

The story follows Alice on a whirlwind tour through the forest as she follows the White Rabbit and his pocket watch. He is late for a very important date! Desperate to find him, she seeks help from the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, just to name a few. Alice's adventure culminates at the Queen of Hearts' Castle, where Alice tries hard to please her Highness or be banished from court. She succeeds and is bestowed with the gift of the pocket watch, much to the White Rabbit's chagrin.

The first half of the performance will be a showcase of choreography from Gwinnett Ballet Theatre's repertory. Four ballets are featured, each choreographed by one of the group's successful alumni or students.

"Tocarre" is a piece created by Gwinnett Ballet Theatre graduate Robert Dekkers, now a member of Ballet Arizona. With music by John Adams, this ballet features fast footwork, eclectic choreography, and is explosive and energetic.

A second ballet by Dekkers is "Tempers," set to music by Vivaldi as performed by Bobby McFerrin. This work in three movements features a lovely pas de deux and many interesting twists.

Alumna Sara Chamberlin has created "Pointe: Counterpointe" to the music of Herbie Hancock, and finally, "Vicissitudes" is the creation of students Lauren Ring and Mallory Retter.

Tickets are $17 for adults and $12 for children 12 and under. To purchase tickets, call Ticketmaster at 404-249-6400 or visit any Ticketmaster location or the Gwinnett Center box office, located at 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail hcalmes@mindspring .com.