SocialStudiesDC: Alice in Wonderland Makeup

The fairy tale craze has struck with full force. Our new favorite adaptation is the Washington Ballet‘s production of “ALICE (in Wonderland),” making its world premiere tonight at the Kennedy Center (after a preview show last night).

Having caught a little Alice fever, we enlisted our in-house makeup artist Jessica Gressa to create Alice in Wonderland-inspired makeup looks, complete with basic tutorials on how to achieve each look. After the jump you’ll also find a fascinating interview with the production’s acclaimed choreographer Septime Webre, as well as unique sketches of the show’s original costume designs from Liz Vandal of Cirque du Soleil fame. And we know, we know, the show is in fact sold out, but like we said, no one can resist a little whimsical musing. So let’s head down the rabbit hole …


(Additional images and info at…

An interview with choreographer and artistic director Septime Webre:

Tell us a little about your background in ballet. How did you come to work with the Washington Ballet?
I began as a young child, following my sister to the ballet. It turned out she was supremely untalented and I was the talented one, so she became a lawyer and I stuck with ballet. I was a professional dancer in New York and began to move toward choreography, which led me to the American Repertory Ballet in New Jersey. And in 1999, I was pursued by the Washington Ballet. 

Specifically with this production, what were your favorite parts of putting it together? How did you reimagine the time-tested story of Alice in Wonderland to make it new and exciting?
We wanted the visuals to be contemporary and unexpected. I followed the storyline of the first book, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” but added elements of the second, like the jabberwocky and Tweedledee and Tweedledum. I did a lot of research of about the original story, and eventually developed my own prologue, which envisions a real Alice and her family. Her mother becomes the Queen of Hearts, her siblings Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and Lewis Carroll became the Mad Hatter.

What made you seek out Liz Vandal for costume design? What aesthetic were you going for?
We had a dream team of designers. This was my and Liz’s tenth project together, so we work very well together. I imagine collaboration as an act of feeding to others the vision-making you would usually keep to yourself, and Vandal and I do that very well together.

What about makeup?
We’re still playing with the makeup. A new concept is emerging and we’ll finalize it before the opening. I think with productions I always tinker. It’s fun to take steps to update each show up until it goes on. I did that with my productions of “The Nutcracker” and “Romeo and Juliet” as well.

Describe how you landed on your choices for casting.
I know the dancers very well and each of them seemed perfectly suited for the roll. Sona Kharatian for the Queen of Hearts—and Maki Onuki [Alice] just has this perfect impish expression.

What do you think about the recent trend of revisiting fairy tale stories?
I think that we all appreciate archetypal stories. Fairy tales tell us great truths about the world, and it’s in our nature to gravitate toward them.

What outlets did ballet give you with this story that may not have been available with other mediums?
The language of ballet is at its best when used metaphorically. It’s about going to the heart of matters. Ballet isn’t great about details, but it’s the emotions of the dance. It helps to streamline everything.

Any particular techniques you’ve used in this ballet that are different from more traditional shows?
We had to help Alice grow and drink in more unusual ways. Sometimes we gave the illusion of her flying with really long legs, and we also used shadows to make her look taller.

Any particular aspects of the show you’re especially proud of?
The designs in this show are spectacular and simply jaw-dropping. The score by Matthew Pierce is also beautiful. The dancers have approached the show with so much creativity and I really love the quirky, funny parts.

Photography: Laura Fruchterman
Makeup design and tutorials: Jessica Gressa
Artistic direction and copy: Liz McAvoy
Models: Hays Sibley, Samantha Urban, Keely Diven, Evan Caplan, Annliese Scott



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