Alice comes to life for Strings performance in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Alice comes to life for Strings performance in Steamboat

Nicole Inglis

Composer Joseph Hallman talks about "Alice: RE:Imagining Wonderland" with Strings Music Director Monique Mead during a meet and greet Friday at the Bud Werner Memorial Library.

In a whirlwind of modern instrumental music, wild costumes, physical character acting and post-modern dance, the dark fantasy of "Alice in Wonderland" will come to life with a new edge Saturday night at Strings Music Festival.

The Modern Storytelling performance of "Alice: RE:Imag­­ining Wonderland" will feature the world premiere of a mixed-media performance art show that follows the traditional story down the rabbit hole.

"It really taps into the imagination and fantasy," said Kate Hatmaker, who originally commissioned the piece two years ago. "It's not something you normally see in a classical music setting."

"Wonderland" will feature a new musical work composed by Joseph Hallman, written specifically to incorporate a dance program. A seven-piece ensemble will perform the music with Strings Music Director Andrés Cárdenes conducting.

Queen of Hearts Productions, a dance troupe from the University of Colorado, will perform a post-modern dance choreographed by Katie Wells along to the music.

The visual arts also will garner a supporting role as projected abstract art provides the virtual setting for the psychological fairy tale. A narrator will speak the story alongside the music.

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The musical piece has been performed once before in San Diego but not in combination with the other artistic elements that will illuminate the music Saturday.

"It's the big highlight of our summer," said Monique Mead, Strings music director. "It's the biggest production we've ever put on the Strings stage."

The six dancers and Hatmaker, Hallman and Mead all gathered Friday afternoon at Library Hall for a meet-and-greet session to discuss the work.

Wells described in detail her process for creating the dance work, which she worked on before she even heard Hallman's music six months ago.

"I wanted it to be really psychological," she said.

Each of the dancers researched the characters and reached into reality to find parallels fitting to each one. Sarah Bowers, who plays the Queen of Hearts, researched dominatrix and anger, but also delved into the deep vulnerabilities that cause anger issues.

Nathan Blackwell, as the Mad Hatter, looked into mercury poisoning — the character's supposed ailment — and long-term drug abuse and its effects.

And then there's Alice, who imbibes many of the characteristics of her co-players. But dancer Skye Hughes added her own fresh take.

"It's important to me that Alice isn't always pretty," Hughes explained as she demonstrated a few awkward dance movements. "And that she can go through all these strange textures."

The music is heavily textured as well, allowing Wells to juxtapose the dance movements with the shifts and changes through a minimalist approach.

Hallman said he was present at every rehearsal, but was content with keeping his hands off the production as it came together from all the different artistic angles.

"'Alice' is like this kid I had two years ago, and it's like she went off and brought home a new boyfriend," Hallman said. "It's not mine anymore, it's ours."

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