Go Deeper

REACTION: the mysterious world of Wandering Alice

Posted August 31st, 2008

Since late spring, the cast, crew, and creative team for Nichole Canuso Dance Company’s Wandering Alice have been rehearsing at Christ Church Neighborhood House. Through a process that began over a year ago (a lucky few saw the work-in-progress presented at the 2007 Live Arts Festival), the group has transformed the building into what feels very much like another world, a place that outsiders (the audience) can visit and enjoy, but perhaps never be a part of.

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Every element—set pieces, props, costumes, the looks on the performers’ faces, and the words they speak—carries a dreamlike quality that makes you feel like there’s more to the scene than what meets the eye. You start to wonder what kinds of secrets might be buried in the hundreds of notes that fill the stairwell, the strings that connect audience members to dancers, or the tiny luminaire umbrellas that lead us through this mysterious little world.

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Sparsely clothed in floppy hats, cooks’ aprons, and some tiny little pants that I can’t really figure out, James Sugg and Mike Kiley provide live instrumentals and vocals throughout (they created an original score for the piece). Elements like the music and Jen Goettner’s superb costuming really complete the strange beauty of this surreal adventure.

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While some scenes maintain set choreography and require viewers to remain on the sidelines, audience members have many chances to indulge in their desire to get a closer look at what is happening around them. We follow Alice (Nichole Canuso) into a small, labyrinthine network of hallways, doors, and windows on the third floor of Christ Church—it’s a sort of play land for the viewers and the dancers. You can read the notes on the walls, see which doors will open and where they lead, and maybe even go for a swim.

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This section reaches its pinnacle when we are all invited to watch as Dito van Reigersberg’s body becomes yet another dimension of Alice’s wanderings. An expert video projection by Lars Jan shows a tiny Alice (Nichole Canuso) as she races up and down stairs, and back and forth along van Reigersberg’s chest and arms. Her path is not unlike the one we’ve been following up until this point. Are we just exploring inside someone else’s head? Maybe.

–Ellery Biddle

Photos by Jacques-Jean Tiziou. Visit JJ’s website.