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Dancer Jessie Rochford-Barber talks about the creation of Wonderland

Jessie falling down the rabbit hole. Photography by Adriana Mendivil.

Creating Wonderland…

The creation of our new work Wonderland was pretty much as the original Alice would’ve experienced it, a totally crazy journey.

We started this project in November last year, just after we had returned from our GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS Melbourne tour. During this time there was a lot of upsetting news stories highlighting sexual violence against women. This was something we all felt very passionately about and so we took our first dive into our new work and started exploring these ideas.

Distorted bodies inspired by iconic surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Photo – Adriana Mendivil.

I remember one interesting rehearsal late last year where Bonnie brought along nine whistles for us. We had to blow into the whistles in a very specific musical pattern creating a marvellous assault to the ears. We ended up practising this for about an hour. Needless to say, we decided this was not quite the direction we wanted to go in and along with our hearing that idea started to fade away.

However, it was during these first few rehearsals that we had started discussing the idea of choosing your own pathway throughout the show and that idea really seemed to stick. As we continued down the rabbit hole of this new work we started taking inspiration from surrealist art, namely, the paintings from Salvador Dali. His paintings feature distorted bodies, provocative figures and stark contradictions of the real world. Dali’s paintings helped to push out some really excellent choreography from my fellow dancers that were absolutely entrancing to watch.

It was here that the idea of our surreal twisted Wonderland started to take shape.

With an idea locked in place, we began to take steps to complete our journey to create our own world…

Kooky costumes and headpieces. Photo – Bonnie Curtis.

We decided to enlist three new very talented dancers into the project; Olivia, Bridget and Romain. These three were able to bring fresh ideas, choreography and ridiculously crazy floor work into the mix. Cheers to Romain’s breakdance training!

Next, we played with costume ideas. These ranged from using black balaclavas to wearing giant pink pom-poms before we finally landed on classic white leotards. Don’t worry we still kept the essence of kookiness. You will just have to come and see how!

Then there was the one very delirious rehearsal, I think it was Easter Sunday, where we discovered a hoard of tiny chairs in a cupboard in our rehearsal space. We then proceeded to start piling up the dozens of tiny chairs on top of each other as is the logical thing to do. 

Somehow the evening evolved into watching our fearless Bernie attempt to use these chairs in a way that nobody should ever try to use tiny, blue fragile chairs.

Behind the Scenes – Dancers Berni and Romain with their tiny chairs. Photo – Adriana Mendivil.

After a few weeks and once we had regained our sanity, we split up into rooms and started using the very unique space around us at Annandale Creative Arts Centre.

We have since developed what is going to be, to quote our lovely director Bonnie, a ‘fully sick’ show. 

I am really excited for our audiences, and everyone reading this, of course, to see and experience such a unique show that we have created.

It really has been a massive undertaking. Deciding and putting together music, lighting and choreography for five different rooms is no mean feat. I have been awestruck by the creativity that has come out of BCP to push through and produce this new work. There is so much effort involved in creating a brand new show from scratch and I would like to say hats off to everyone in the team.

I can’t wait to see what happens once the audience gets involved!

I hope you’re ready to experience our Wonderland.

And I promise you the whistles were destroyed.

See a new side of Jessie when she performs in the Sydney season of Wonderland.

August 2-11 at Annandale Creative Arts Centre.

Tickets are on sale now!

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