Greta Hodgkinson on Playing the Ultimate Diva: Wheeldon's Queen of Hearts

 

Hodgkinson (left) with Jillian Vanstone in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada.

 

Christopher Wheeldon's fantastical co-production ofAlice's Adventures in Wonderland for The Royal Ballet and The National Ballet of Canada is finally making its New York premiere. NBOC brings Lewis Carroll's colorful characters to life September 9-14 (enter Pointe's ticket giveaway here). For Pointe's bi-weekly newsletter, we spoke with principal Greta Hodgkinson about playing the ultimate diva role: Mother/Queen of Hearts.

 

How would you describe Mother/Queen of Hearts?

In the opening scene, I'm Alice's mother, and then when she goes down the rabbit hole, the characters change. I become the Queen of Hearts. I remember quite clearly that Wheeldon said he wanted the Queen to be not just angry—I mean she has that side to her, but the next minute she's a ballerina. All of a sudden you do a little Giselle step, and then you turn around and you're hopping on pointe really angrily. The role has a lot more light and shade than her just acting out, "Cut off their heads," every time she comes onstage. And it's super fun to play. Wheeldon does a big parody on the Rose Adagio. It's really a take on the ballerina part to the nth degree. You can be as over the top as you want, and then you can rein it in. 


Is there anything in particular you do to get into character?

To be honest, the makeup and the hair. We wear these crazy wigs. I don't do anything specific, but once I look at myself and see that it's so exaggerated, it's hard not to be in the role.


Did Wheeldon give you any special notes when you were learning the ballet?

He was very open to you certainly putting your own interpretation on it and adding whatever flair or little idiosyncrasies that you wanted. But he was very clear about who each character was, and I think that really helped. He made sure that everybody knew their starting point.


What comes easier to you: dancing narrative or abstract works?

For me, it's most enjoyable to be able to tell a story. I like going from the beginning to the end and having that thread and living each moment. But having said that, a lot of abstract ballets can have their own stories. It doesn't have to be a narrative that the audience knows. I think that, within myself, even some of the most abstract ballets have a journey. 


What has been the most enjoyable part of dancing in Alice?

Really being able to explore the comedic side of a character. There aren't very many ballets that are so over the top, where you have that kind of freedom, so that's been really fun for me.

 

For even more interviews, tips, audition info and giveaways, sign up for our FREE e-newsletter.

 

  

 

Latest Posts


Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

The Anatomy of Arabesque: Why Placement and Turnout Are Key to Achieving This Crucial Position

Audition for any school or company, and they'll likely ask for a photo in arabesque. The position not only reveals a great deal about a dancer's ability, but it is also a fundamental building block for more advanced movements, like penché or arabesque turn. Beyond technique, it can be the epitome of grace and elegance onstage, creating unforgettable images—just try to imagine Swan Lake or Balanchine's Serenade without an arabesque.

Yet many dancers are unsatisfied with their arabesque lines, and students frequently ask how to improve their extensions. (Social media posts of dancers with extreme flexibility don't help!) In an attempt to lift the back leg higher, dancers may sacrifice placement and unknowingly distort their position in the process. How can you improve the height of your back leg while maintaining proper placement and turnout? We talked to a few experts to better understand the science behind this step.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Coppélia" (1976)

Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov share the unique experience of having danced at both American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet during their careers. The two overlapped at ABT in the mid-'70s, where they developed one of the best-known partnerships in ballet. They were both celebrated for their dynamism onstage; however, in this 1976 clip of the pas de deux from Coppélia, Kirkland and Baryshnikov prove they are also masters of control.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks