East Portland’s Metro Dancers dazzle downtown audience with ‘Alice’ ballet

Need a lift? Take a look at this story, filled with photos! We take you backstage, as the Montavilla-based Portland Metro Arts troupe gets ready for the curtain to rise on their full-length ballet at the Newmark Theater. And there are some pretty amazing photos of the show from the audience’s point of view, also …

Portland Metro Arts’ Nancy Yeamans, the show’s director, multitasks by preening a prop and taking the phone call, as the production of Alice in Wonderland moves into the Newmark Theater.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
After years of serving kids and adults from within a warehouse tucked away in the Gateway District, the non-profit Portland Metro Arts (formerly Portland Metro Performing Arts) is nicely settling in to their new rehearsal, class, and performance space on SE Stark Street in Montavilla.

This year, their Metro Dancers troupe worked from the year’s start to mount a ballet version the timeless tale, Alice in Wonderland – a re-creation in dance of Lewis Carroll’s two marvelous stories, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass.

  • See dancers audition for this show in this article: CLICK HERE
  • See the cast trying on costumes in this article: CLICK HERE.

While the stage crew erects the sets, dancer Sprout Chinn-Raitht gets into her first costume of the production, dressing as a Royal Card, with the help of cast member Tessa Meyer.

Months of rehearsals by a hundred dancers and cast members led first to several school-based performances in April, and culminated in a public show at the Newmark Theater in downtown Portland on April 16.

Amazingly, the cast – which included some 30 backstage volunteers – had little more than two hours to move all of their costumes, sets, and props into the theater; set it all up; and then start the performance promptly at 2:00 p.m. on the same day!

“Everyone pitches in,” said Portland Metro Arts’ executive director, and the show’s artistic director, Nancy Yeamans. “Everyone pitches in. We have no prima donnas.”

When asked who is in charge of the myriad of logistical details, everyone points to Prop Mistress Lisa Mills (center) as the one who makes sure everything is moved in, into its proper place, and ready for the show.

Although the cast couldn’t see them, more than 600 people were in the audience, waiting to see what they hoped would be a delightful family show. Their expectations were more than met by the dazzling, colorful, fast-moving performance.

The best way to tell the story of this production is by way of images …

PMA’s Alice in Wonderland Photo Album

The dressing rooms at the Newmark Theater are abuzz with activity as cast members prepare for the show.

Richard Schultz, who plays “King of Hearts”, sets Humpty Dumpty in his place on stage.

Metro Dancers Stefani Strodtbeck and Ellen Council warm up – using this mushroom as a ballet bar.

Amalia Mathews, “Young Alice”, makes sure her costume looks perfect.

Stage Manager Pat Fifer calls, “Curtain in five minutes!”

The nine kids who make up the body of “Caterpillar” are dressed, and waiting backstage for the show to start.

As the curtain rises, Young Alice (played by Amalia Mathews) readies a tea party for her dolls and stuffed animals.

“Flowers” from the garden scene watch the action on stage from the wings, and await their moment in the sun.

The grown-up Alice (Ellen Council) gets news from the White Rabbit (Beth Barnhart) that they’re “Late, for a very important date.”

Alice (Ellen Council) appears bemused by the dancing flowers in the Enchanted Garden.

Here comes the Caterpillar!

Leaping as they dance together are The Mad Hatter (Len Mills), Alice (Ellen Council), the Dormouse (Noah Cunningham), and March Hare (Stefani Strodtbeck).

The Mad Hatter, Sleepy Dormouse, March Hare, and Alice ready themselves for a most unusual tea party.

Add to the Tea Party a squadron of dancing lobsters and other characters … and the wonderful show goes on from here!

After the show, the cast and crew had just over two hours to strike their sets, pack their props and costumes, and leave the stage.

“I’m really pleased with our show,” Yeamans later said. “It’s truly amazing what a dedicated group of volunteers can do.”

Portland Metro Arts is a non-profit organization that offers a wide variety of classes in dance and the performance arts – as they have for decades. But now, they’ve added other art classes and activities.

PMA is located at 9003 SE Stark Street, and their telephone number is (503) 408-0604. For more information, see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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