Australian Ballet sends Alice down the rabbit hole

The Australian Ballet says Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, premiering in Melbourne tonight, is the biggest production it has ever undertaken and one of the most physically challenging.

Created by acclaimed British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon for the Royal Ballet, the story is a modern take on the Lewis Carroll classic.

Wheeldon said he had taken some liberties with the story and used new technology in theatre, projection and puppetry to tell it.

"The look of it is unlike any Alice you've ever seen before," he said.

Alice herself has also changed.

"She's feisty. She's inquisitive. She's more of a young woman actually, our Alice," Mr Wheeldon said.

"Less of a little girl and slightly less acerbic, because in the book she's quite rude actually."

The role of Alice is so demanding, five dancers have been prepared to take on the role.

"It's a brutal role, Alice. I think she has one exit over the course of the night," Mr Wheeldon said.

"She has to be able to hold the stage for the entire night, not just as a dancer, but as an actress.

"There's not a moment when you're not following her.

"It is a virtuosic role for any dancer."

Principal artist Ako Kondo will perform the lead role on opening night.

Artistic director for the Australian Ballet David McAllister said it was the biggest production ever staged by the company, with hundreds of costumes including a giant Cheshire cat and a two-metre tall Queen of Hearts.

"Production-wise it's huge," Mr McAllister said.

"There's more sets, more costumes, more props and choreographically it's really intricate, so lots of dancing for everyone.

"There's a lot going on all at once.

"I guess its Wonderland. I guess I've got a character I'd like to do if I was dancing and I guess it's the white rabbit actually.

"I think he's just such a fabulous character.

"I think we'll be doing this ballet in 150 years' time. It's like the current version of The Nutcracker.

"It's got a beautiful score, magical design. It's got extraordinary choreographic and theatrical storytelling.

"I think it will be a ballet, [which] in five generations' time people will still be doing this ballet and it'll be called classical and heritage.

"It's universal and it's of no time and I think it's immortal."

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland opens tonight at Melbourne's Arts Centre and in Sydney's Capitol Theatre in December.