alice

Alice – Review

ALiCE – at DanceEast

Jasmin Vardimon is one of the leading lights in contemporary dance theatre; she founded her incredible company nearly twenty-five years ago and continues to astound audiences nationally and internationally with her ground-breaking choreography.

ALiCE premiered in 2022 and it was supported from the outset by DanceEast who co-commissioned this outstanding work. As the audience took their seats at the sold-out show in Jerwood DanceHouse, we could see a projection of a digital clock on the stage. But this clock was different: the numbers of the clock were comprised of people’s bodies, with legs and arms forming perfect numbers which updated as the real time moved along, minute-by-minute. This striking and inventive mechanism was a sure portent of what was to come – a magical evening of stunning physicality, digital projection, eclectic music, and clever kinetic scenery!

The show is a contemporary dance reimagining of the classic Alice in Wonderland. However, this production is not a simple narrative tale. Lewis Carroll’s novel has been unlocked to explore the nature of identity, the transition from adolescence to adulthood, first love, gender, and the understanding of difference.

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Guy Bar-Amotz’s set is a work of genius: it is a giant book standing upright on a rotating stage. As the show progresses, we accompany Alice and the other Wonderland characters on their surreal journeys through the book’s never-ending and varied pages. The set is so integral to the piece that the company considers it to be an extra performer which “needs attention and has to be moved”.

Playing the character of Alice, Evie Hart successfully drew the audience into the mind of a young woman, who is unsure who she is or even she where is going. Evie conveyed a wealth of conflicting thoughts and emotions within her movement, as she tried to make sense of the strange and adult world that she is discovering. All seven dancers are extraordinary: their acting is wonderful and believable, and the physicality of their dancing is simply astonishing!

The choreography is hugely athletic: guards leap into the air, seeming to defy gravity. They then tumble to the ground, executing flowing and difficult floorwork with apparent ease. At times the movement resembles gymnastic tumbling, but there are also strong influences from hip hop, krumping, contemporary dance and physical theatre.

Different chapters of the story are unveiled as we move forwards on this compelling and curious journey. Chapter 3 explores identity: we see a multitude of dancers, all dressed identically as Alice. This upbeat number is wonderfully odd and arresting: the ensemble tap dance, kick, and flick energetically and with irreverent gusto to a pop song, which has a very literal chorus, posing the question, “Who the f*** is Alice?” Later, there is a striking scene of tempestuous first love where the set is effectively split in two.

On one side, the dancers are passionately in love, but as soon as they move to the other side of the set, intense arguments break out. The couple move between these passionate extremes fluently and with conviction.

Jasmin Vardimon has included familiar Wonderland characters such as the Red Queen, the Mad Hatter, and the Caterpillar, but there are also characters inspired by the spirit of the book, including a traveller with a huge rucksack, trying to hitch-hike to Wonderland. As a former professional dancer, I could not believe my eyes when this dancing hitchhiker performed the most difficult and physical choreography with a massive and unwieldy rucksack on his back!

The Jasmin Vardimon Company dancers are immensely talented, each demonstrating their own distinctive quality of movement and 100% commitment to the performance. The Red Queen deserves a special mention: small of stature, yet with a huge stage presence. Intimidating, cruel and mesmerising in turns, her embodiment of this key character was sensational.

The cast received a long and enthusiastic standing ovation from the audience as this 80-minute show drew to its close. ALiCe is a triumph: a mesmerizing and outstanding piece of dance theatre, performed by one of the best contemporary dance companies in the world. A huge thank you to DanceEast for their insightful programming which continues to bring the beauty and artistry of cutting-edge dance to the people of Suffolk.

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