Stavna In Wonderland

by | Jan 21, 2020 | PERFORMING ARTS

Stavna Ballet’s Alice In Wonderland showed a dance troupe picking up momentum and finding its groove, writes Christopher McDaniel.

On Saturday January 11th, Stavna Ballet held Alice in Wonderland at the Modlin Center for the Arts, their first production of the 2020 calendar year. The wonderful show retold the classic Lewis Carroll tale through dance and movement, and it was a simple delight. Ballerina Katy Clay maintained the role of Alice with energy, drawing the audience in from her first appearance on stage.

The last performance by Stavna that I was able to attend showcased a growing organization with good legs. This year’s performance demonstrated that the company has found its niche and its groove within Richmond’s dance community. With more male ballerinas and an expanding trainee/apprentice program, Stavna’s shows can immerse the audience into a world they intend, without breaking continuity — until intermission, at least.

Katy Clay as Alice. Photo by Robert Lindholm

Alice’s flight down the rabbit hole into a psychedelic voyage was envisioned and cast onto the stage with flashing lights, as dancer Ryan Davis portrayed the White Rabbit. He’d stop, look at his watch, look at the audience, and bolt off into a darkened wing of the stage. It was as if you could hear the words “I’m late!” reverberate and echo around your ears, even with them never being said out loud.

Canonical performances were spaced out with routines carried out by the students of the Stavna Dance Academy. This structure allows children to perform alongside professionals, creating an environment of support, nourishment, and enrichment. They make up with cuteness what they lack in movement, and that’s okay. A group of students labeled the Pool of Tears stole the show.

Back in December of 2019, the local dance community held its inaugural awards ceremony, the RVA Dance Awards. Stavna grabbed three nominations in three categories: dancer Kinsey Phelps for Youth Dancer of the Year, ballet mistress Nicole Shaver for Best Ballet Choreography, and company member Rachel Seeholzer for Dancer of the Year. Alice in Wonderland was co-choreographed by Shaver and Stavna Artistic Director Shannon McConville. The company is picking up momentum.

Ryan Davis as The White Rabbit. Photo by Robert Lindholm.

My favorite performance of the night came from a duet featuring company members Elkey Love and Seeholzer. Their characters, the Knave and Queen of Hearts, came to life on stage. Both dancers perfectly portrayed the scenario of the evil ruler commanding a reluctant servant into a duet. Seeholzer would rouse the crowd while beautifully executing technique after technique as Love cowered, bracing himself to catch and lift her high. The audience was cheering and laughing, right there in the Hearts’ throne room with them.

To get more information about Stavna Ballet’s upcoming performances, check out their website,

Top Photo: Rachel Seeholzer as the Queen of Hearts, by Robert Lindholm.

Christopher McDaniel

Christopher McDaniel

Christopher Alan McDaniel is a 2015 VCU graduate with his Bachelor’s in English and a minor in Creative Writing. Chris aspires to be a collegiate professor of writing in his future. Until then, you can find him hosting free public creative writing workshops with the Filthy Rich and writing grants for Dogtown Dance Theatre. Chris can also be found around Richmond’s breweries and music venues enjoying what the city has to offer.

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