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.

 

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