Cleveland Ballet isn’t staging some Disney version of Alice in Wonderland.
That’s not at all what artistic director Gladisa Guadalupe has in mind for her 3-year-old company. “I want to do something different,” she says.
So Guadalupe is stepping through the looking glass herself by collaborating with famed choreographer Margo Sappington for Alice, which takes Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre stage May 11 and 12. “She has a unique style,” says Guadalupe. “Even though she was classically trained, she has a lot of experience choreographing for Broadway shows.”
A Joffrey Ballet alum, Sappington has earned acclaim for her choreography worldwide, including a 1975 Tony Award for the revival of Where’s Charley? In 1983, she also became the first American choreographer to work with Beijing’s Central Ballet of China.
Guadalupe was a 17-year-old dancer with Venezuela’s Ballet Nuevo Mundo de Caracas when she first worked with Sappington. Last year, they met in New York over dinner to discuss ideas for Alice. Guadalupe wanted choreography that was technically precise and artistically expressive to highlight Sappington’s classical-turned-contemporary style.
“I like her fast movements,” Guadalupe says. “She knows how to bring the best out of every dancer.”
The staging of Cleveland Ballet’s Alice is a radical departure from any piece the company has produced before. The stage is divided into circus-esque rings, with the main action taking place in the center circle. Dancers perform to a musical score that ranges from a jazz string quartet to an accordion.
“Alice is magical,” says Guadalupe. “She has all these dreams. Coming into the circle signifies entering a magical space.”
On the sides, the curtains are removed, so audiences can peek behind the scenes to see every backstage movement and costume change.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” says Guadalupe. “This is actually very European, very outside the box — just different.”