Brian Enos stands in the front of the studio, dressed head to toe in black. His focused gaze is directed on the three girls learning Alice, waltzing across the center of the room.
“Good, good,” he declares softly. Approaching one of them, he asks her to stretch her leg farther in the arabesque pique and turn her pirouette more quickly. He demonstrates with fluid agility and she follows his lead, moving farther and with more dynamic range after incorporating these corrections.
Enos himself is a study in contrasts. Soft-spoken but direct. Kind but demanding. Even his succinctly styled mohawk hair is the opposite of what one would expect from a ballet choreographer. In essence, this makes him the perfect choice to choreograph Grand Rapids Ballet’s production of the classic story Alice in Wonderland, returning May 3-5 and 10-11, 2019, after it’s triumphant 2017 premiere.
Enos’ choreographic style draws on classical ballet technique, but the steps you will see on stage are a far cry from Swan Lake. The Mad Hatter and March Hare tango, the Cheshire Cat slinks jazzily across the floor, the White Rabbit spins neurotically with ferocious abandon. The score arranged by Brendan Vincent keeps with this fresh and modern feel. The story is taken out of the Victorian age and into a more abstract, timeless place. While the production has elements of the Disney version and is assuredly family-friendly, the ballet is modernized and complex.
Enos began his conception of the production by reading the original Lewis Carroll story. Despite the story’s original reception as “sheer nonsense,” Carroll’s puzzling world has persevered over time, appealing to both children and adults alike. Enos determined the ballet would follow the book more closely than the movie, incorporating some of the darker elements of the story and keeping with his sensibilities as a person.