Dancers’ Workshop of Jackson Hole has a longstanding wintertime tradition of putting on fun performances for the entire family. This year the organization is presenting a unique version of the classic story “Alice in Wonderland,” featuring students of The School at Dancers’ Workshop and dancers in the Junior Repertory Company.
“Adventures in Wonderland” debuts at the Center for the Arts this Friday, December 9 at 7 p.m., with additional performances on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and a Sunday, Dec. 11 matinee at 4 p.m.
In advance of the production’s opening night, Junior Repertory Company director Michaela Ellingson and dancers Audrey Hultman (playing the Mad Hatter) and Bella Gutiérrez (playing the Queen of Hearts) joined us in the KHOL studios.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation was recorded on Tuesday, December 6.
KHOL/JACK CATLIN: As two of the main characters, the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts, you both play big roles in the story. How is the process of embodying these crazy characters and bringing them to life on stage?
BELLA GUTIERREZ: It’s a really big process, I guess, from just going from the studio to being on stage. And I would just say you have to be very physical because this is just a production of dancing. We’re not talking or anything. So like with the Queen, I just have to be very physical and big with my movements. When I want to cut someone’s head off, it’s just all with my arms and body and face.
AUDREY HULTMAN: As Michaela said in the beginning of the rehearsals, I was able to develop a background for the Mad Hatter because obviously he was not crazy to start with. The glue in the hat is what causes him to go crazy. And so being able to develop a backstory to my character helps me embody it on stage. And recently, being on stage and rehearsing, I’ve realized the more I get into my character, the more fun I have with it and I feel like it’s more fun to watch.
KHOL: Throughout the opening weekend, what do you all hope the audience will take away from the show?
MICHAELA ELLINGSON: I think for me, it’s just joy. It’s coming together, witnessing the dancers all work so hard for me. I just want the audience to walk away and go, “Wow, that was a lot of work. That was a lot of time. That was a lot of energy.” And and to have a huge smile on their face and go, “Wow, I was transported. Like I wasn’t just in the Center for the Arts right now. I got to go all over.” You know, I want people to feel like they are the hour and a half there with us. They’re in a different world.
GUTIERREZ: Yeah, I just want the audience to enjoy it because obviously it’s also something that the dancers are looking forward to and working hard at. And it’s such a fun process and just getting to see it for the last time [is something] I’m really excited for.
HULTMAN: I was lucky enough to actually watch “If The Shoe Fits” last year and I caught myself making these faces and getting involved and like, “Oh my god, what’s going to happen?” Like I was in it with the dancers and I just hope the audience is able to do that with us this year.
KHOL: Dancers’ Workshop has been and continues to be an amazing resource for the local community, presenting professionally produced performance opportunities for students like Audrey and Bella here. What is next for the Junior Repertory Company?
ELLINGSON: Basically, we lead into New Dances, New Choreographers, which is an opportunity for the dancers to really make their own work. Something we really pride ourselves on is not that we just give dancers material, but that we want to make artists. We want to make thinkers and movers and people who have something to say. So once we wrap up winter production in January, we get going on New Dances, New Choreographers, which is an awesome project the girls will be involved with creating their own work. And then we also wrap up the season with Progress Performance, which is our end of the year, big school performance with all the kids involved. And it’s a really wonderful way to culminate our year and say, “Hey, look how much these dancers have grown. Look what they learned.” So we’ve got some fun stuff headed our way in the spring. But yeah, we’re just stoked for the weekend. We can’t wait and I’m really proud of all of our students who have really poured their souls into the show.
Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with Michaela Ellingson, Bella Guiterrez & Audrey Hultman from Dancers’ Workshop.