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Finding adventure by traveling down the perfect Rabbit Hole

Alice in WonderlandBeloved characters come to life in Metropolitan Ballet Theatre’s production of “Alice in Wonderland.” COURTESY PHOTOAlthough dancers learn to smile onstage – other than during tragic moments in the plot of a ballet – Genevieve Pelletier was concerned she had perhaps overdone it in her last role. She was the lead in the Marzipan dance in Metropolitan Ballet Theatre and Academy’s production of “The Nutcracker.”

Then along came a role in which an oversize smile fits perfectly.

The 17-year-old Quince Orchard High School senior will be playing the Cheshire Cat.

“I love the Cheshire Cat, who smiles all the time,” she said. “It fits in with my personality.”

Every year Metropolitan Ballet Theatre presents a different full-length ballet during the spring. This year it’s “Alice in Wonderland.”

“It’ll be a traditional telling, with such familiar characters as the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and the Caterpillar, among the other characters audiences know,” said Elizabeth Odell Catlett, artistic director.

Dancers in the school from ages 8 to 18 will perform in the ballet, along with a few professional dancers.

“Typically, we do involve professional dancers or our teachers in performances,” she added.

One “untraditional” aspect of the ballet is that it will be using music by Tchaikovsky. Although the famous Russian composer wrote the scores for many ballets, including “Swan Lake,” he did not specifically create an “Alice in Wonderland.”

“We took his music and rearranged it,” said Odell Catlett.

Katerina Rodgaard, assistant artistic director, is choreographing.

Genevieve Pelletier has been studying at Metropolitan Ballet Theatre and Academy since the age of 5. Her mother, Susan, said she was drawn to the school’s good reputation. But the two also came to appreciate its “super-friendly atmosphere,” said Genevieve.

“Parents are very involved as volunteers,” said Susan Pelletier. “This is Genevieve’s last year at the school, and it’s a very bittersweet moment. The school is very supportive.”

MBT opened its doors in 1989 as a nonprofit organization. In addition to ballet, it trains dancers in jazz, modern dance, tap and hip-hop.

“We offer professional instruction in a nurturing environment,” said Odell Catlett. “I would say we’re inclusive. Anyone who wants to dance and can work with our schedule, can.”

Some students go on to dance careers; others have studied just for the love of it.

Pelletier hopes to pursue a career in medicine, though she may minor in dance in college.

“But Metropolitan Ballet Theatre has given her so much,” said her mother. “It’s sad for Genevieve to leave. She’s really matured and developed poise.”

In addition to offering classes and performance opportunities to its students on several levels, MBT believes in “giving back to the community,” said Odell Catlett. “Since 1989, we have visited schools, senior centers, community events and hospitals, providing free performances, lecture-demonstrations, and dance classes as part of its community outreach efforts.”

These include afterschool programming in Title 1 schools.

MBT also includes a professional ensemble – whose members must audition. They prepare an annual repertoire of dance pieces to perform in outreach programs and mentor students.

In addition to a production of “The Nutcracker” – whose score Tchaikovsky did famously compose – and the spring production, MBT holds an end-of-year gala.

The “Alice in Wonderland “ performances take place Saturday, March 17 and Sunday, March 18, both at noon and at 4 p.m., at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center, Montgomery College, 51 Mannakee Street, Rockville. The box office phone number is 240-567-5301.

A “special post-performance cast chat” for children of all ages will be held after select performances.

The studio is located at 220 Perry Parkway, #8, in Gaithersburg. For information, call 301-762-1757 or visit www.mbt.org.

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