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The Good Stuff by Shelley Bennett

Group picture of the Jazz cast

By Shelley Bennett

Last weekend, Joan’s Studio of Dance held their 47th annual recital, “Alice in Wonderland.” The cast was led by Miah Duerksen as Alice. Miah has been a student of Joan’s for many years and danced the role of a bluebird in the last rendition of “Alice”. 

The show opened with Alice following the White Rabbit, danced with great joy and lightness by Hannah Matchniff, into the proverbial hole. Appearances by the Cheshire Cat (a mischievous Elizabeth Mahnke) and the Mad Hatter (the graceful Hayley Trevizu) complicate matters. 

Intermediate B Jazz introduced the conflict with their performance “Lost Things”, a dramatic dance choreographed by Gabrielle Singleton. Their stark costumes and sharp movements emphasized the solitude felt by Alice. 

It’s not for long though, as Hannah led the Jazzy Rabbits in a fun, upbeat jazz number that cements the friendship between Alice and the White Rabbit.  

In their next stop, they meet Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum played by Renee Delgado and Sofia Bennett. This dynamic duo brought a hard hitting, innovative hip hop routine to the stage which transitioned into the beginning tap group of sailors. These sailors march and salute in perfect synchrony with clean, true tap sounds.  

“Welcome to Wonderland”, a beautiful, engaging lyrical number from the Grade 5/6 ballet class, brought Alice and friends into a forest scene, complete with flowers, caterpillars, and butterflies. 

The Primary 3 and Grade 3 classes joined together to present a garden of flowers, with the latter ending with “The Mistake Waltz”, a tongue-in-cheek look at what happens to a performance when everything goes wrong. These performers kept the audience laughing with their over-the-top facial expressions, indicating their “mistakes.” 

Gabrielle Singleton, the Caterpillar, is the latest character to meet Alice in a sinuous dance showcasing her undulating arms and flexibility. She is then joined by the Advanced Non-Syllabus class and the group gave the illusion of a caterpillar stretching out its segments and legs in an Arabian-style ballet. 

Act 1 ends with the transformation into beautiful butterflies, the Beginning Non-Syllabus class, clad in vibrant wings that complimented their graceful movements. 

“The Mad Tea Party” opens Act 2 with a raucous jazz routine performed by Advanced Jazz. The aforementioned characters are joined by the White Queen (a serene Chalise Robbins), March Hare (the spirited Georgia Bennett), and Doormouse (sweet and demure Hannah Corley.) This dance brought the house down with its tricks and intricate formations with characters weaving in and out of place.  

The energy was brought down a level with the cutest little teacups of Primary 2, then reached epic proportions again with the Beginning Jazz class full of Mad Hatters. Hayley Trevizu started it off with a series of challenging turns and these young dancers didn’t let up. 

As night begins to fall, the adult tap class brings a little shine with their Star routine. They are joined by the Grade 4 Fireflies, who flit and flirt and emit some luminescence into the darkness. Chalise Robbins, as the white queen, leads her court, the Grade 2 class, in a tranquil waltz to end the act. 

In an interlude, Georgia Bennett presents her senior solo to “Cool Girl”, an introspective look into growing up. While Miah Duerksen chose a tribute to mental health in a performance that brought tears to many.  

The next opens at the Queen of Heart’s (a formidable Georgia Bennett) court with the infamous croquet scene. A class of small hedgehogs, the Primary 1 class, won over the hearts of the audiences with their somersaults and sweet faces.  

Little Roses, grade 1 ballet, bloomed onstage in their sparkling tutus, while Big Roses, a character class, twirled and whirled in a Spanish dance. Intermediate and Advanced tap acted as the card soldiers in a series of precise steps and combinations. 

The group was joined by a pair of knaves (Hayley Trevizu and Chalise Robbins) as the Queen questions who has been painting her roses red. Intermediate Non-Syllabus offers their support in their Red Queen’s Court performance.  

Alice and Queen engage in a scuffle, with Alice’s cohorts coming to her rescue. In a bittersweet moment, Alice bids her new friends goodbye as she journeys back to everyday life. The evening ends with bows and applause as everyone in attendance has been spellbound for the last two hours. 

Joan Zuehlke, owner and teacher of the studio, gave thanks to all who helped make the night possible, including instructors Jillaine Singleton, Gabrielle Singleton, and Molly Bettencourt, the dancers’ parents, backstage help by the moms, the light and sound crew, and prop masters.

Our Alice, Miah Duerksen, with one of the Tweedles, Sofia Bennett
Jeremy Couso
Jeremy Couso
SusanvilleStuff.com Publisher/Editor
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