Dance troupe takes first Fridays for families series on trip down rabbit hole

just as surely as Alice peered down the rabbit hole to find adventure, one of her fanciful friends figures she will peer down from The Commons stage to find a youngster or two much like her preschool self a decade ago.

In fact, cast member Amelia Jones is hoping for that as Dancers Studio Inc. offers a free presentation of “Alice In Wonderland” at 6 p.m. April 7 during Old National Bank’s First Friday For Families.

Jones, now 15, was enthralled the first time she saw the local troupe perform before a theater full of young students like herself.

“One of the very things that got me interested in dance was how they could tell a complete story without using any words,” said Jones, who plays a slightly ditzy Tweedledee in the production.

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Jones is among a group of performers who have participated in several First Fridays performances, some of which have attracted about 400 people, according to organizers. The series has run for 26 years and is among the most popular offerings of the Columbus Area Arts Council, attracting youngsters, older siblings, parents and grandparents.

“It always is a great crowd, and one that is very engaged,” Jones said.

Maika Shibata and Salome Cloteaux are double cast as the lead character of Alice, who falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures.

At press time, organizers still were deciding which dancer would perform the First Friday show and which would perform upcoming shows for the general public later in April.

Alma Wiley, founder and director of Dancers Studio Inc., mentioned she and her troupe previously presented this show to the general public in 2004, 2007 and 2011. It is based on the 1951 Disney animated classic film.

“But these are real people in front of the kids (in the audience),” Wiley said of her version. “And that’s what gets children’s attention. They’re so great because they buy into the story.

“When we did ‘Jungle Book,’ to some of those kids, that tiger seemed real, and they were a little afraid.

“And in this, they love the rabbit, the rabbit hole, the Queen of Hearts, and really, all of it.”

Wiley is especially appreciative that the arts council has relied on the dance troupe the past several years to round out its First Fridays’ schedule.

“This has helped us get to the point that we can walk into a performance space cold — without time to space things, and we still can do fine,” Wiley said. “So, this is great experience for the dancers.

“And this is a different audience than we normally hit with our public shows. So this is great, added exposure.”

Wiley has commended younger audiences in the past for staying focused on the meandering storyline of “Alice in Wonderland.”

“Sometimes I will say, ‘Just follow the story,’ but with Alice, it’s really kind of crazy,” the director said.

Down the hole

Who: Dancers Studio Inc. of Columbus presenting the classic one-hour tale of “Alice in Wonderland.”

What: Part of Old National Bank’s First Fridays for Families series coordinated by the Columbus Area Arts Council.

When: 6 p.m. April 7.

Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St.

Admission: Free.

Information: 812-376-2539 or artsincolumbus.org.

Coming up

Dancers Studio performances of “Alice in Wonderland” and other contemporary works are scheduled at 7 p.m. April 29 and 2:30 p.m. April 30 at Columbus East High School’s Clarence E. Robbins Auditorium, Indiana Avenue and Marr Road.

Public performance tickets: $15 in advance for adults, and $10 in advance for students.

Information: 812-376-8080 or dancersstudio.org.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.