A production the whole community can get excited about and follow down the rabbit hole will be staged at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn
Westmont’s Salt Creek Ballet performs “Alice in Wonderland” at 2 and 5 p.m. May 14 at the McAninch Arts Center. Westmont’s Salt Creek Ballet performs “Alice in Wonderland” at 2 and 5 p.m. May 14 at the McAninch Arts Center. Each ticket includes access to a children’s Mad Hatter Tea that takes place between shows from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Erica De La O completes her first season as the new Artistic Director of Salt Creek Ballet; with her husband, Kristopher Wojtera, as the new Associate Ballet Director. Both have had international careers as principal dancers and have choreographed full ballets for professional companies.
This production features 38 dancers and several guest artists bringing all the classic characters to life; Alice, the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat and the Queen of Hearts.
“He has a lot of support and a lot of families who are willing to volunteer and he has great students and kids, so that makes it easier,” she said.
This production of “Alice in Wonderland” was co-choreographed several years ago by Salt Creek Ballet instructor (and former Hubbard Street Dance Chicago dancer) Susan O’Connell and former co-director artist of the Salt Creek Ballet Sergey Kozadayev.
“Over the years they’ve played it a few times – it’s in the repertoire,” De La O said. “Kristopher and I saw it and thought it was awesome. We said, ‘ I think it’s a good production to do post-COVID to get the kids back on stage.” Help them get back to theater with a household name.
Salt Creek hadn’t staged the production since 2019, which is a long, childhood stretch.
“My elders never had the chance to do that,” she said. “Then COVID shut down, so you have to think about the experiences the kids had at Salt Creek Ballet and what they missed because of COVID. As soon as it was rumored that we were considering “Alice in Wonderland”, that was for sure a huge positive influence or motivation to have a goal to get back on stage and work hard.
This had the effect of rejuvenating and inspiring the dancers to work hard and move, she said.
“It’s a beautiful ballet, classical music with really fun movement,” she said. “And he invites guest artists to do very beautiful dances. It is very appropriate for this year with the number of students we have. We are excited to stage it and share it with the community.
To further engage with the community, there will be a Mad Hatter Tea Party between shows for kids to partake in treats, do crafts, learn a bit about dancing and meet some of the dancers, a she declared.
The goal is to create future patrons of the arts while educating them about ballet, she said.
“What I love about this ballet is that we were able to integrate the whole school… that was the goal, to do something inclusive for the whole school, not just for the upper grades,” said she declared. “It’s very colorful. It is very beautiful.
“They kept the story in chronological order of what we know from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and created a really interesting way of conveying all the dreamlike things with projection, which is really great. So the projections that occur in the background throughout the ballet give you the dreamy, swirling, dreamy, big/small “Alice in Wonderland” feeling.
Incredible lighting, lavish costumes and fantastic set design will do more to create an atmosphere, she said.
“It really is a gem to have in the community,” she said. “I like it because it’s based on literature. The length is really family-friendly; it’s about an hour and 15 minutes. There is a varied amount of music and dancing.
This includes tap dancing, jazz and a beautiful pas de deux.
“It’s a really balanced ballet that has all the elements of what a ballet dancer can do or convey, from being in a pointe shoe and a romantic tutu to a jazzy step and a tap dance,” said she declared. “It’s a very diverse form of expression which makes it very lively and entertaining.”
Her dancers are “super excited” to dance in this production, she said.
“‘The Nutcracker’ is thrilling every year and it’s like the icing on the cake,” she said. “They know this is a big deal and a very special opportunity.”
She hopes people will come to support young dancers and expose themselves and their children to the culture of dance and music, she said.
“If you go to Salt Creek Ballet’s ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ you’ll feel like you’re not only watching a great production, but you’ve now contributed to a larger, larger purpose, which is to support artists,” she said.
“Offering the possibility for families to come and see a ballet or a dance or a show that they would not normally have the opportunity to see. I think it’s really rewarding. They will enjoy a good show and appreciate knowing that their dollar has gone to a non-profit that is trying to reach the whole community. It’s a really cool ballet and I’m really happy that this community has it and we’re doing it.
Salt Creek Ballet presents “Alice in Wonderland”
When: 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. May 14
Or: McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn
Tickets: $31-$35 adults/$26-$30 children and seniors
Information: 630-942-4000; atthemac.org
Annie Alleman is a freelance writer for the Naperville Sun.