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Edinburgh Fringe - Burklyn Youth Ballet

'Alice in Wonderland'

by Kate Snedeker

August 10, 2007 -- Zoo Southside, Edinburgh, Scotland

In 2007, the Burklyn Youth Ballet has returned to the Edinburgh Fringe with the same winning combination of fresh dance-storytelling and colorful costumes they brought with productions such as “Aladdin”. However, after many years at the Gilded Balloon, the company has moved down to Zoo Southside for this summer's glittering production of "Alice in Wonderland".

Choreographed by Robert Royce and Joanne Whitehill, this "Alice" captures the zany adventure in Lewis Carroll's original story in a package that appeals to even the youngest audience members. If it has less of a clear storyline than other Burklyn productions, "Alice" more than compensates in pure dance. Leading the parade of characters who range from the ordinary to the extraordinary, is Kim Schroeder's buoyant Alice. Schroeder has solid technique, which allows her to focus on the character and story. She particularly impressed in turns and her unforced extension.

Equally impressive was Lindsay Parker as the frenetic White Rabbit. Outfitted in one of Burklyn's trademark detailed costumes--a confection of white fur and long, luscious ears – Parker bounced around the stage in a flurry of quick steps interspersed with powerful grand jetés. It was not just her dancing that stood out, but also the humor and personality that she imbued in her racing rabbit.

To flesh out the story in terms of both dance and magic, the choreographers have inserted a series of joyous divertissements for the butterflies and flowers in Alice's enchanted garden. The butterflies were stunning, attired in vivid colors sprinkled within sequins, though the white one seemed more an elegant moth than fluttering butterfly to me. The choreography provided each butterfly with a chance to shine, which they mostly did, especially in their rousing, turn-filled finale. As with many young dancers, there are rough edges, with many of the dancers needing to pay more attention to the position and point of their non-working legs. This is something that will come with practice, practice, practice.

In the past, Burklyn choreography has focused primarily on pointe work, but the duet for Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum demonstrated that it doesn't have to be pointe to be pleasing. Christine Cairns and Catherine David were a crowd-pleasing double act, with many kudos deserved for the slow grand pliés. The other characters in the zany world of the Queen of Hearts were delightful, with a particular mention for Carrie Sunde's adorable Dormouse. The grand finale, with King (Arthur Leech in another of his memorable cameos), Queen, cards and even a flock of can-can flamingos had the profusion of color, action and joy that one expects from Burklyn.

Eschewing the normal sets, the company scored a huge success with a series of innovative projections on a plain white backdrop. Especially effective were the transitions from the real world to the imaginary world, in which the garden image wavered and rippled. The program includes a note of thanks to Wendall Harrington, an award winning projection designer who has, among other things, designed the projections for the Royal Danish Ballet’s 2004 production of 'Anna Karenina'. Burklyn's backdrops seem to bear Harrington's distinct style, and one hopes that she might be tempted into further collaborations.

If there was one weakness in "Alice", it was in the complete absence of male dancing. The one male role of Alice's brother was but a cameo. Given the lower numbers of young men in ballet, Burklyn has generally had to rely on paid semi-professional or professional dancers for male roles. Yet, this expenditure is worth every penny, because the pas de deuxs – if sometimes a bit wobbly – bring a nice contrast to the rest of the dancing, and the presence of men on the stage adds appeal to the young boys in the audience.

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