The Royal Ballet has shown great courage and assumed great risk in awarding Wheeldon the commission for its new Alice in Wonderland due to premiere in 2011. In choosing Alice, the Royal Ballet has clearly defined its target as children and families. So, if Wheeldon creates a weirdo production that is designed to appeal to either dark, adult interests or children’s familiarity with two dimensional, flat screen video game characters, he will have wasted the greatest opportunity of his career.
What can we expect from Wheeldon for this new production? He has said in the past that he wants people to know that ballet doesn‘t have to be “a big, puffy, pink, glittery nightmare.” However, all that is pink is not necessarily stink.
To get in the right choreographic mood, Wheeldon might consider camping out at FAO Schwartz’s on Fifth Avenue in New York to watch the kids. The bigger and puffier the stuffed animal, the more attention it gets from the kids - and from adults who remember being kids. Offer a little kid a big, puffy, pink, glittery, stuffed dog or a framed Jackson Pollock paint splat print, the kid will choose the dog every time.
The Metropolitan Opera’s imaginative productions of Hansel and Gretel and The Magic Flute with the most incredible scenery and effects and powerful, hummable music have managed to draw major audiences of kids and adults. Both are productions that see kids and adults making return trips. Of course, Ashton's Tales of Beatrix Potter is genius for its spectacle and choreography that grabs kids' attention from the first note of music.
Big, puffy, pink, and glittery works on kids - always has, always will. FAO Schwartz knows that. The Met Opera knows that. Ashton certainly knew it. Let’s hope Christopher Wheeldon remembers that it does. And good luck to him with Alice. We are all looking forward to it.