It’s about representation, Henrot said during a recent pre-rehearsal interview. The dancers and the audience need to see themselves in the show. “Nutcracker” is the No. 1 entry point for ballet for audiences. “I want anybody to be able to see themselves in the ballet.”
Henrot’s wife of 10 years has seen her dance since their relationship began, but once asked, “Am I ever going to see our story?”
“Nutcracker in Wonderland” changed that when it premiered last year. “It’s my way of showing my type of love story,” Henrot says. She adds it was freeing and she got “great feedback from the queer community, which gave me a lot of fuel to want to explore that.”
Her wife, Martha, cried when she saw the show.
BCL has been in its new dance studio near the St. Paul Airport for about a year. Henrot had been artistic director of St. Paul Ballet for five years when the dance company let her go and the dancers joined her in the new venture in August 2018. The name, Co.Laboratory, reflects the collaboratory nature of the artist-driven company, Henrot says.
BCL is an all-female company right now, but there are two male guest artists in the 60-dancer show, which includes 48 students from the ballet school, a performer from Circus Juventas and Twin Cities Unicycle Club.
Though there’s plenty that’s nontraditional about this weekend’s shows, the music is as familiar and traditional at tights, toe-shoes and tutus. Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” is the soundtrack for the dance, even when it shifts to Wonderland. The Cheshire Cat dances to Spanish Dancers music, the caterpillar moves to the Arabian Dancers music, the Waltz of the Flowers is the Waltz of the Red Roses, Henrot says.
Clara and Patty enter Wonderland across a threshold (comparisons to coming out of a closet are intentional, Henrot says) rather than down a rabbit hole. Act 2 is “big and wild,” as it shifts from black and white to color, says Henrot, who dances as the Queen of Hearts.
Anna Roehr, who is the White Rabbit, gets her shoes on before rehearsal. Roehr said she has a bag of shoes, left, that she rotates when they get sweaty. (Jean Pieri / Pioneer Press)
The Wonderland half of the production gives BCL a unique take on the holiday standard, Henrot says.
“We just couldn’t do the same old thing,” she adds. “The Nutcracker and Drosselmeyer (Clara’s godfather, who gives her the nutcracker in the original ballet) are a little overbearing.
“The second act felt a little foolish.”
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Henrot says she didn’t know what the reaction to “Nutcracker in Wonderland” would be when BCL first staged it last year. The company was only four months old.
The show returns on the back of positive responses. And it’s not the exact same show. Henrot’s been working with the projectionist who does backgrounds and she’s planning to continue to add changes.
“Audiences who know us know we’re never going to do something twice,” Henrot says. “That would be boring for us. It needs to be living and breathing.”