Between dream and life

The new Görlitz dance theater production is a fantasy on Alice in Wonderland. But it goes far beyond that.

Ines Eifler

What a wonderful piece the Görlitz Dance Theater has just put on stage. Fans of the English classic "Alice in Wonderland" will really enjoy it! The white rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the enigmatic caterpillar, the heartless Queen of Hearts, froggy footmen and rebellious playing cards: With a little imagination, they can all be recognized in the production "Wonderland, like nocturnal shadows", which premiered on Saturday in front of a sold-out house.

The title had suggested the connection to Lewis Carroll's book from 1871, but the Gerhart-Hauptmann-Theater kept a very low profile in its announcement of the production. Poetically, but noncommittally, it spoke of the boundaries between fantasy and reality, of the freedom of thought, the madness in the banality of everyday life, the aberrations of memory. There the interpretation seemed wide. In fact, "Wonderland" by Dan Pelleg and Marko E. Weigert is so close to the original that one can dive into the familiar Carrollian world full of oddities and at the same time marvel at the imaginative realization: at the unusual motifs, possibilities of association and movements. About the very different kinds of dance, which sometimes gently and gracefully, sometimes passionately, sometimes robotically, sometimes acrobatically captivate. Dan Pelleg's inspired choice of music leads from spherical choirs to technical rhythms, oriental sounds, the bright chimes of a lullaby to an adaptation of Annie Lennox's "Sweet dreams". The dancers even sing themselves this time, including as a polyphonic a capella choir.

The border between dream and reality is always a theme on stage, just as it was for Lewis Carroll. He accompanies his Alice into a world in which the girl has to ask herself again and again who is crazy here: she or the others? Alice follows her curiosity with all the consequences that sometimes change her body uncomfortably. She has to watch in amazement what happens to her as soon as she acts on her own. She has to find saving thoughts again and again, but also experiences how some problems solve themselves. Above all, she learns how relative her own experience is in an environment that she cannot influence.

The dance piece by the Wee Dance Company is also about all these things. Dan Pelleg and Marko E. Weigert, however, have been inspired by Carroll's original rather than retelling it in dance. The figure of Alice appears alone, in pairs, in threes, in blouse and skirt, in pants and vest. Usually several dancers portray the girl, opening up the idea that each individual is more than they seem. There are wonderful transformations like a dance in which an undershirt becomes an emotional link, a thread that can be stretched to breaking point. There are impressive solo and duo dances that carry the piece far beyond the action in Wonderland, leaving the audience free to dream about what they want.

Fortunately, Britta Bremer's stage is not at all reminiscent of the atmosphere of some cheesy film adaptations of the book. Alice, after her pursuit of the rabbit, ends up in a large tiled room that can take on any color, which later seems to extend to infinity and whose floor cushions can turn into houses of cards. The further the story progresses, the wider the room becomes. If at the beginning it offers a corner into which the frightened rabbit can squeeze with his coat of white gloves, and a hole in the floor from which the most whimsical figures crawl, it gradually opens up.

In it dance creatures, sometimes in line and white masked, sometimes in colorful joy and great costumes. Under the eyes of the Cheshire Cat, who floats freely in space as a lantern, the stage opens further, the vanishing lines transform into waves, perhaps an echo of "Alice in Mirrorland". The back wall becomes translucent until the tea party behind it looks like a painting. The illusion turns the proportions upside down.

Is there a line between crazy and not crazy? In the program booklet, the company continues to twist the question with quotes from great artists from van Gogh to Michael Ende. In addition to Lewis Carroll, the poet Ringelnatz is also found there: "Everywhere is wonderland. Everywhere is life."