Alice in Wonderland, a magical ballet based on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, is brought to Brighton Dome this festive season by Ballet Theatre UK. Artistic Director Christopher Moore gives us the low-down on what it takes to create a new ballet and the work that goes on behind the scenes.
Can you tell us a little bit about Ballet Theatre UK and how you came to found it?
Ballet Theatre UK is a mid-scale, quality, classical dance company performing to regional venues with a bold and unique approach to creating new theatre productions and a wish to raise the awareness of dance. I danced professionally for over a decade subsequently becoming more involved with choreography, so it was a natural progression for me to establish Ballet Theatre UK to showcase my own interpretations of popular classical ballets.
The company has been described as ‘innovative’. Why is that exactly?
I’ve taken traditional ballets, which to some people have become museum pieces, bringing them up-to-date for the modern audience and engaging our audiences with a passion and energy that I hope is inspiring. The dancers bring much to the company making me able to create choreography which best shows their techniques.
What inspires you when you are creating a new ballet or choosing a new repertoire?
I’ve taken inspiration from an eclectic mix of classical dance, theatre, popular culture and literature to create new interpretations of popular classical ballets, and I hope to continue to develop new and original productions in the future in the same way. We have been lucky enough to be granted permission by the Prokofiev family to use the score for our production which has made creating the choreography a thrilling and inspiring experience.
For how long do the dancers train for a new work?
Rehearsals are generally four to five weeks, but it never stops once on tour. Work continues on the nuances of the production, honing and perfecting the delivery of the show.
How many people work behind the scenes on a production, and what kind of things do they do?
We have a Ballet Mistress, who is responsible for the daily class the dancers undertake and the wellbeing of the dancers; a Technical Manager who ensures the show is installed in each theatre and is ready to roll out on time every night; a Tour Manager who organizes, amongst other things, cast accommodation and their transportation to each venue; a Wardrobe Mistress and Admin staff. Their roles are varied and very important to the smooth running of the company.
Who will be dancing the lead roles during the tour?
We are lucky enough to have multiple lead dancers. We have a company ethos of dancer development and care for their wellbeing. We operate a rotational system allowing each member of the cast to share in taking on the lead roles. This allows also for a freshness to be brought to each show.
On tour, you have to constantly adapt to different theatres and stages. How long do you get to prepare and practice at a new venue?
We generally know what to expect at each theatre – the stage size, space in the wings etc. The technical team usually arrives early morning and the dancers follow during the morning. Before each show, the dancers take a warm-up class then a show run through is undertaken after the technical installation is complete. Depending on travel distances it can be only a few hours to install the show and be ready to perform.
For those who have never watched ballet, how would you persuade them to come along?
I had a retired gentleman approach me after one of our shows who said that he had never been to a ballet before and was so pleased he had now done so, having enjoyed it immensely. I think it should be considered as one of life’s experiences; you’ll never know until you try it. A live show with a high visual content and rousing music will always set the heart beating faster! Alice in Wonderland is a perfect introduction as it is such a well-known story yet the complex choreography challenges for the seasoned classical ballet fan.
Alice in Wonderland is at Brighton Dome on 1 and 2 January.