Edinburgh Fringe: Edinburgh Ballet Theatre’s Alice in Wonderland

Greenside @ Nicholson Square
August 23, 2022

You tend to have to dig a little to find classical ballet on the Fringe but is usually there somewhere, including this year at Greenside @ Nicholson Square in the shape of Alice in Wonderland by Edinburgh Ballet Theatre. Founded in 2018 and co-directed by Rachel Clowes, and Vanessa Smer Barreto, it’s a non-professional ensemble of diverse, but enthusiastic adult dancers.

Adult ballet classes may be very popular these days but of all the dance forms, ballet on stage in particular tends to be looked upon as the preserve of professionals. It doesn’t have to be that way. Indeed, it shouldn’t be that way. As was very apparent with the Edinburgh Ballet Theatre dancers, there is something very special about dancing under stage lights for an audience, whether friends or strangers; and the process of getting there too.

Saskia Peace in the title role in Edinburgh Ballet Theatre’s Alice in Wonderland
Photo courtesy Edinburgh Ballet Theatre

The standard of the dancing in EBT’s Alice in Wonderland is naturally variable but what really shines through is the commitment and enthusiasm in what is a light, easy-going, family-friendly adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel. The cast of 20 may zip through everything in around an hour, but the show packs a lot in, including all everyone’s favourite characters.

Saskia Peace is a delightful Alice who doesn’t seem the least fazed by any of the strange characters she meets. Moira Tulloch’s White Rabbit doesn’t get too much to do, but looks decidedly dapper in red waistcoat. Kelly Gilbert as the Cheshire Cat comes in all blue with lots of pas de chats (what else?).

Best of the scenes, and one of the longest, is the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, which includes a rather neat dance on chairs. As its host, the wonderfully bright Slava Lawson oozed excitement and jollity, Grace Balfour-Harle as the March Hare and Jayde Terri as the Dormouse (in dressing gown, of course) also giving their all.

Sets are at the bare minimum, so there’s a bit of imagination called for, but the pretty much full house in the Lime Studio at Greenside @ Nicholson Square loved every minute of it. Any why not?

Alice in Wonderland is at Greenside @ Nicholson Square to August 27, 2022. Click here for tickets.

Hive Mind Dance Collective: Movement Within Jazz

Earlier the same day, the same space played host to Hive Mind Dance Collective and Movement Within Jazz, described as an “improvised performance creating unique shows daily.” Essentially, it’s a part lecture-demonstration, part workshop for dancers and musicians alike to which we are invited.

It did not get off to a great start. I’ll admit to not being the average audience member, but I found the opening guided exercise that serves as a warm up rather dull. The downbeat introduction didn’t help. It’s sort of thing I’ve done and led hundreds of times, and while it is usually interesting to be physically involved in, as a spectator event it’s just not a very interesting watch. It felt very long.

Several improvised dances followed. The guidelines given were vague and prompted all sorts of interpretation. Improvisation as a spectator event is difficult, especially for the non-dancer who has no idea what it’s like to be ‘in there’. It needs structure, signposts or markers of some description to glue it together and help the audience.

There was none of that here. I have no doubt that the connections were there in the performer’s heads but, while, everyone was clearly giving their all, it just felt like a discordant, disparate collection of movement, no-one ever taking the lead, no-one responding to another, everyone simply doing their own thing; something that seemed to extend to the musicians too.

It was also all very busy. Apart from the last section, when we finally got to see dancers as individuals, all the dancers seemed to be moving the whole time. Ditto the jazz trio, all three of whom seemed to feel they had to produce sounds every single second.

It all left the group sat behind me totally nonplussed. I’m not surprised. Apparently, the show is different every day. Perhaps I got unlucky. But while I’m sure there is a good idea here, I really do not feel this is the way to present it.

Movement Within Jazz is at Greenside @ Nicholson Square to August 27, 2022. Click here for tickets.