Backstage Reporter – Chelsy Meiss goes backstage in rehearsals for Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for Ballet News
When I interviewed corps de ballet dancer Chelsy Meiss about her career with The National Ballet of Canada, one of the up-coming events that she was very much looking forward to was the new production of Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, co-produced by The Royal Ballet. Following the buzz around the London premiere on 28th February at Covent Garden, I asked whether Chelsy would be willing to take us behind the scenes as the production is set on The National Ballet of Canada. I’m very pleased to bring you the first of her diary entires – and a first for Ballet News.
Chelsy’s Ballet Notebook
“Ever since Karen Kain announced that we would be performing and co-producing a brand new production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with The Royal Ballet, there has been a buzz of anticipation in the air!
As soon as the casting went up, I was excited to find that I would be dancing Lorina, Alice’s older sister, a Flower Soloist as well as a Card.
On the first day of rehearsals, we had two coaches from The Royal Ballet come for two weeks to set the ballet on the company. Working with Jacquie Barrett and Anna Trévien was a great experience because they know Alice inside and out. In every rehearsal, at any given moment, they knew exactly where everyone needed to be and made it a fun and enjoyable experience. Almost two weeks into the rehearsal process, the choreographer Christopher Wheeldon arrived in Toronto to see how we were doing in the studio and to finalize casting. He has such energy in the studio and I’m looking forward to when he comes back later in May.
For the first week, I was in Alice rehearsals six hours a day. Alice is such a big production it requires every dancer to be involved. If a dancer gets injured during the run, they’ll still need to be a part of the production in a non-dancing role. We were also introduced to the props for Alice during our first week. I already knew that Alice had huge sets but I was especially interested in how we were going to make The Cheshire Cat appear and disappear onstage. It takes eight girls, dressed in black, to move the different limbs of The Cheshire Cat. I’ve learned how to move the head and tail. Making the cat look believable is all about syncing up the cat’s limbs. If the feet are moving then the stomach and tail have to react to make it look believable. The Cheshire Cat is definitely a sight to be seen!
Even though I’m no longer rehearsing Alice six hours a day I still feel immersed in Wonderland because the fantastical props are all over the building. It is very hard to walk by the giant spoon, teacup or caterpillar tail and not feel like sitting down and having a cup of tea.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland opens on June 4th.
Check casting and booking dates.