Performing, at any age, can be a challenge, but as an adolescent, when one is perhaps at their most vulnerable, it can either be a much needed release of anxiety or a way to overcome it. It is one thing to devote time to an art, it is entirely another to choose to perform that art in front of your peers, your friends and the public.

For more than 30 years, Creative Outlet Dance Center has continuously produced a fall production based on children's literature. In 2008, they organized Children's Dance Theatre, a 501(c)3, in order to better serve the community through dance and theatre.

Each year, five shows are produced, a Sunday show that is put on for the public, and four performances for school children from Baldwin County. During its history, more than 75, 000 children have attended. Scholarships are made available so every child can come.

This year's production of “Alice in Wonderland” will include dances from multiple genres, giant dancing Alice legs, a high-jumping white rabbit and a circus-themed, magically-lit, aerial Cheshire Cat that will surely delight and thrill children of all ages.

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Alice was first staged in 2002 when I was a junior in high school. I had dreams of being a performer. Despite being the director's daughter, I was not given special treatment (beyond guaranteed rides to rehearsal). I had to audition, rehearse and work hard like everyone else. 

I was cast as the Cheshire Cat, a contortion pointe piece on a raised platform under blacklight. It was a challenge at the time, but it helped
hone the skills necessary for my current job as a circus artist.

I wasn’t the only one in the cast to become a professional performer. Liz Clark Golsen, the Red Queen, is now an actress and dancer. “The studio really cared about my own individual talents. The tap program was pretty small when I was dancing there, but they saw my interest and allowed me to tap in the fall show as the Red Queen. I went on to tap professionally in shows all over the country. I loved feeling like I wasn't just another dancer cranked through the machine there, but was nurtured and encouraged to push my boundaries.”

All cast members have off-stage duties as well. “It teaches the dancers that they have a responsibility to their fellow performers and that what they do behind the curtain is just as essential as what is going on on stage.” says Pagan Mosher, director of CDT.

It can be difficult to stay late in the evenings and give up sleeping in on Saturdays for months at a time to come in and practice, but the students who choose to do so are rewarded with life experience and friendships.

Caroline Bondurant, a dance major at Elon College, played the Mad Hatter in 2007. “CDT’s Fall Show brings the entire dance company together and creates a sense of camaraderie and support amongst the performers. I have stayed very close with some of the girls I danced with, and I can safely say that these girls are some of my closest friends to this day.”

After nearly three months of rehearsing, the curtain will rise at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 17 at the Fairhope Civic Center. The first show is for family, friends and the public, but the real fun happens during the shows for the children.

At the beginning of every show, the audience is reminded that it is OK to laugh and clap if they see something they like. There is always lots of laughter, and this year will be no exception. The most important thing is that the audience becomes excited about the arts, dance, theatre and literature, so that in some way, even a local production by amateur dancers on a modest budget can make a whole world come alive.

Showtimes Nov. 17, 4:30 p.m.; Nov. 18 – 19,  9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Creative Outlet Dance Center • 66 1/2 S. Section St., Fairhope. 928-9511.

text by Megrez Ravel Mosher

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