Metro Dancers start down rabbit hole toward ‘Wonderland’

See the very beginnings of this production of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ – being mounted by this great outer East Portland arts education organization, which serves all the metro area …

Metro Dancers’ Artistic Director Nancy Yeamans explains how this audition session for Alice in Wonderland will be conducted in the Portland Metro Performing Arts theater.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Although it started as a novel written in 1865 by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, the recent motion picture starring Johnny Depp renewed interest in “Alice in Wonderland”.

However, to Nancy Yeamans, Artistic Director of Metro Dancers at Portland Metro Performing Arts, “Alice” is an old friend. “It is one of our ‘signature’ shows. We love presenting the show as a ballet, because the audience loves it, and the cast members have a great time performing in it.”

Potential cast members for Metro Dancers’ Alice in Wonderland production line up, ready to begin their audition.

The Metro Dancers’ version of the show is truly a big production. “In all, the performers play hundreds of major and minor characters – about 175 of them,” noted Yeamans. “In the final scene, we’ll have as many as 100 filling the stage.”

Even though the show isn’t to be presented until April, Yeamans and her staff were holding final auditions in mid-January when we visited. “This is how it all starts,” she said, “with auditions. Everyone’s a little scared here, but the purpose of our auditions is to help us figure out which performer will do best in each part.”

At the ballet bar, dancers warm up with basic dance movements.

The director said they find parts for everyone, regardless of their age or skill levels. “This includes actors with no movement experience, all the way to highly-proficient ballet dancers.”

The show’s biggest challenge for the performers, Yeamans explained, is that all cast members play multiple roles during the show. For the staff, the challenge is working out the logistics of the costume and scene changes.

In the upcoming weeks, there will be hundreds of hours of rehearsals, she said. “Some people will be here as many as six hours a week; others will come for one or two hours – depending on their parts.”

Veteran PMPA and Metro Dancers performer, volunteer, and coach, Len Mills takes notes, while watching performers audition.

Is it worth the effort?

“You bet it is,” Yeamans enthused. “It’s silly, it’s crazy and we literally go into Wonderland when we’re on stage. It’s fun to be in this fantastical place where crazy things happen.”

Metro Dancers’ Alice in Wonderland comes to Downtown Portland’s Newmark Theatre April 14-16. To learn more about the show, or Portland Metro Performing Arts (at 9003 SE Stark Street), see their website: CLICK HERE.

Brand new dancers and practiced ballerinas twirl side-by-side, as they try out for roles in the upcoming production of Alice in Wonderland.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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