Local dance troupes go out with a bang in “Alice’s Winter Ashevilleland”

GO ASK ALICE: Local dance troupes Les Femmes Mystique and Les Filles Charme present a final show centered on Alice in Wonderland themes. The heroine pursues the white rabbit and encounters a host of distinctly Asheville characters and scenes. Photo by Rodney Smith, Tempus Fugit Design

During her decade of living in the San Francisco Bay area, Asheville dancer Christine Garvin became well-acquainted with the long-running musical revue Beach Blanket Babylon. The show follows Snow White as she searches the world for her Prince Charming and pokes fun at a range of pop-culture characters along the way. Taking inspiration from Alice in Wonderland, Garvin and her troupes Les Femmes Mystique and Les Filles Charme have translated the Beach Blanket Babylon concept to The Twelve Days of Alice’s Winter Ashevilleland, which debuts Saturday, Dec. 5, at The Orange Peel.

“I always loved that idea of taking a cartoon princess character and shaking her up a bit, and how better than to have her face the characters of Asheville — or Ashevilleland, as it came to be — as she searches for adventure?” Garvin says. “Alice is, of course, a very adventurous character, and so she became the obvious choice when we were hashing out ideas for the show. From the very beginning, I wanted something focused on Asheville because there is so much material to work with, while also showing our appreciation for this town.”

Produced and choreographed by Garvin, Twelve Days centers on Alice’s pursuit of the white rabbit, during which she encounters a host of distinctly Asheville people and scenes. Dressed as figures from the Lewis Carroll classic, dancers from LFM and LFC star in video vignettes between sketches that, along with live performances by dance and nondance guest stars, help move the story along.

Among the elements of Asheville life that make the cut are the Pritchard Park drum circle, the idea of stores quickly opening and closing, locals’ frustrations with tourists, the importance and presence of buskers, the city’s prevalent New Age community and the difficulties of dating and finding love. The celebrated food and beer scenes receive brief mention, but Garvin says that since those topics don’t ultimately make for compelling theater, they aren’t the major a focal point she and her troupes initially thought they would be.

Local dancer and set designer Maurice Legendre was recruited to create Asheville on stage. Pritchard Park makes up one part of the performance area, the opposite side of the stage has a forest to showcase the beauty just outside downtown and the backdrop is a cityscape outline with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. “This dynamic stage gives us a chance to really move around and put Alice in different places that represent the area so well,” Garvin says.

As Alice’s journey comes to an end, so too will LFM and LFC. Garvin is shifting the focus of her dance business to teach more workshops. She is now working in-depth with women, using dance to facilitate healing. “I hold a M.A. in holistic health education, and the call to blend my health and dance backgrounds has come to the forefront over the last few months,” Garvin says. “I love putting on shows, but it takes an incredible amount of time and energy, and I had to make a choice on what would serve the most people in the long run.”

The last hurrah for the two troupes has inspired them to be more creative and ambitious than with past shows. In Twelve Days, they’ve devised their most in-depth storyline and tied an assortment of pieces together. Plus, Garvin says that the lighting abilities and space of The Orange Peel’s stage give the dancers a chance to spread their wings.

WHAT: The Twelve Days of Alice’s Winter Ashevilleland
WHERE: The Orange Peel, theorangepeel.net
WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 5, 8 p.m. $15 in advance/$20 at the door

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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