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An exquisite dancer, draped in dramatic lighting, surrounded by magnificent music opens Susan Baker-Dillingham’s extraordinary production of “Alice.”
Friday’s opening night performance by her New Mexico Dance Theater School and Performance Company at Duane Smith Auditorium moved beyond wonderful into a magical world of spectacular sites and sounds.
The ballet brims with Baker-Dillingham’s creative genius.
Act I finds Alice, performed sweetly by the lovely Hannah Taylor, with her sister, performed by the graceful Elizabeth Stockton, on a riverbank where she soon falls asleep and her incredible adventure begins.
Alice follows the White Rabbit, played to a tee by the talented Zoe Martin, down a hole and into a door-filled hallway.
Alice finds a key but she’s too big to enter the doorway. She finds a bottle labeled “drink me” that makes her shrink, then a cake labeled “eat me” that makes her grow.
Alice cries a river of tears because the rabbit disappeared and she can’t get through any of the doors.
Performances by Sophia Jeffery as the dormouse, Sarah Dale as the canary, Sidra Hsieh Ratliff as the eaglet and Emily Brown as the dodo bird were delightful.
The queen of the living flowers, was performed regally by Elizabeth Stockton and her charismatic cast of living flower dancers joined graceful soloists Celeste Ranken and Lindsay Roach on stage amongst the beautiful scenery of a living garden.
Talented dancers perform brilliantly as characters entering the living garden including Alice Veirs as a shy fawn, Kelly Dolejsi as a glitteringly graceful unicorn, Alicia Bowyer as a fuzzy green caterpiller, Sabrina Lynne as the Cheshire cat, Chris Jeffery as a lovable turtle and the hilarious antics of Eileen Kysar and Kelsey Mann as Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
Michael Roybal performs a marvelous March hare.
Act 1 ends with the lead-up to a Mad Hatter’s tea party and newcomer Frank Macias was a standout as the Mad Hatter.
In Act 2, Emily Brown, Akane Dunn, Sophia Jeffery, Naomi Joyce, Megan Kornreich and Helen Liu are completely adorable in their roles as teacups.
A trio of talented young men including Matthew Connor Davenport, Justin Dunn and Colin Hemez, perform as gardeners in a scene with a glowingly delightful twist.
More talent was displayed during the performances of Devon McCleskey as the knave of hearts, Gary Cooper as the judge and head chef and Andrew Jeffery and Lorelei Wohlbier as the heartwarming “mini chefs.”
Kendra Smale and Mark Dunn deliver a tremendous performance as the Queen and King of Hearts.
The stage becomes an ocean of red and black as a large cast of dancers portraying cards, dazzle the audience in a standing-ovation–worthy grand finale. Baker-Dillingham’s world-class choreography and her impeccable attention to detail make “Alice” a must-see production.
She has assembled a top-notch technical staff including rehearsal mistress Selena Offenberg, set designer Holly Haas, lighting designer Ross Mason, videographer Holger Waschinski and incredible costume designers and set construction and stage crews.
Baker-Dillingham founded the New Mexico Dance Theater School and Performance Company in August 2004. The school provides classes in creative movement, jazz, tap, hip hop, “mommy and me,” stretch and strengthen, pointe, partnering and all levels of ballet including beginning and intermediate teen and adult.
The nonprofit organization provides intermediate and advanced dancers the opportunity to learn existing classical works and study with teachers and choreographers from around the world. Classes take place in NMDT’s Central Park Square studios.
Dancers perform in productions throughout the year. Baker-Dillingham’s creative team includes Associate Director Daren Savage, Administrative Director and instructor Selena Offenberg and Instructor Carol Liebmann.
“Alice” is a wonderful way to kick off the holiday entertainment season. Ticket prices run $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and students. Children under 4 attend free.
Performances continue at 2 p.m. today and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21.