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PHOTOS: Jabberwocky Unleashed In Ballet's 'Alice (In Wonderland)'

One character in the Kansas City Ballet's new production of Alice (in wonderland) is not a dancer -- but requires seven dancers to move: the Jabberwocky, a silver-scaled beast with a sprawling 25-foot wingspan.

Early in the rehearsal process, the ballet's artistic director, Devon Carney, brought in Paul Mesner, founder of Paul Mesner Puppets, to stage the puppet work and teach the dancers a few tricks of the trade.

During a Saturday run-through at the Bolender Center, the looming Jabberwocky’s heart-shaped eyes were fixed on Alice, who is played by Sarah Chun, as the two faced off. The monster menaced and threatened Alice and her companions until she struck it with a sword, leaving the Jabberwocky to retreat offstage. 

Craig Hall, in his third season with the ballet, alternates with LaminPereira dos Santos in operating the head of the Jabberwocky. Hall said Mesner was pivotal to understanding the puppetry. 

“He had a lot of great advice on how to make the Jabberwocky seem more alive. Everything from how to make it look like it's actually flying to having the Jabberwocky take a breath before he takes off," said Hall. “When we first tried it we were pretty terrible, but we've worked out a pretty good system now to keep things coordinated."

Lamin Pereira dos Santos, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is dancing with the company for his first season. He said getting the look and feel of a living creature was not as easy as it appears onstage.

“Working with the Jabberwocky is definitely one of the hardest parts in the production since it requires a group effort when it comes to timing, coordination and strength besides the fact that we are trying to transmit the impression and feeling of a real dragon," dos Santos said. "Besides being very challenging, it is also fun to do it.”

Kansas City Ballet presents “Alice (in wonderland),” Oct. 10-19, 2014, at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo., 816-931-2232.

Julie Denesha is the arts reporter for KCUR. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.
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