Entries in Michael Pink (2)



How would The Milwaukee Ballet’s The Nutcracker enchant the audience without those magnificent costumes? The company conjures the very magic the holiday tale relies upon with more than 150 costumes that casts an enduring spell on the audience. Artistic Director Michael Pink presents this musical gift of dance on the city's Uihlein Hall stage at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts every December. 

This begins at the Milwaukee Ballet Studios located on 6th and National, where drapers Harlan Ferstl and Sarah Keller continue to stitch dancers’ skirts and Fritz’s vest for the premiere on December 8. Fifteen years have passed since The Joan, Jack and Victor Stein Foundation donated one million dollars for a complete makeover of Milwaukee’s seasonal ballet classic. During those years and over 100 performances later, numerous costumes have needed serious repairs. Silks have split on party skirts, buttons have broken on evening shirts and mice heads have required draper’s dental work to replace any lost plastic teeth. 

Besides these repairs, after each season all the buttons and trims are removed on every costume before being dry-cleaned and then stored for the year. These trims all need to be replaced before the 15 performances begin in 2012. Then every December, all costumes are laundered by sponge or machine, while each pair of ballet tights and other washable clothing will be cleaned, even between matinees, to keep the ethereal costumes bright for the every single performance. 

The pastel colored tutus or romantic gowns remind the audience of actual sugar plums, the longer, frothy full skirts similar to the airiness of cotton candy. Or appreciate the gigantic pairing of long, white pantaloons and the huge voluminous skirt seen on Mother Ginger in Act II, a costume that hangs from the rehearsal studio’s ceiling because of the size. Glitter and sequins need to be reattached to these sparkling costumes every year so light can reflect their shimmer during the holidays. In 2012, Nita Soref together with Ann and Richard Teerlink (in the name of Francesca Louisa Drope and Mandela Josephine Drope) sponsored a new Sugar Plum Fairy costume that will glitter when set to one of Tchaikovsky’s best-known compositions. 

Those delicate dancer's toes require gentle care, too. Seventy pairs of pointe shoes for the women and 30 pair of ballet slippers used in the production require Wardrobe Mistress Mary Belle Potter to be on her own toes. Often each pair requires four to seven months to custom order, being made to exact specifications for one ballerina. Keeping costumes clean and the dancers dressed for the performances, which includes costume changes, has occupied her time for 4o years. After this season, Potter will be retiring, yet return as a performance dresser for the 2013-2014 season. 

In the ballet studio’s rehearsal hall, ballerinas practice with their costumes on, a breathtaking sight even without the live music, production backdrop or complete corps, refining the steps until opening night. Also at this time, The Milwaukee Ballet’s Nutcracker Costume Drive remains open as well, with sponsors needed for Marie’s Party Dress, a host of Mouse Infantry suits, the Arabian costume and five pairs of Children’s Party Shoes. 

While Ferstl has worked for the Ballet as a draper since 2002, he has handled these precious costumes at least “1000” times and claims 15 years ago they were made with quality, stitched to last and continue to conjure holiday ballet magic. “But to the children in the show, the new dancers, “ he explained, “They’re excited to wear them and then they become new to us each year through their eyes.” 

The Milwaukee Ballet presents The Nutcracker at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts December 8 through 26. For information or tickets please call 414.902.2103 or click the Milwaukee Ballet link to the left.              by Peggy Sue Dunigan 



Contemporary ballet enthralled the audience on Saturday evening. While some dance patrons prefer only the full length, traditional ballet, they miss the experience of applauding new works from around the world. The Milwaukee Ballet under Michael Pink’s artistic direction presented three exceptional choreographers that had the dancer’s exchanging toe shoes for ballet slippers during several selections, where both were used to great effect in the Spring Series.

Choreographer Matthew Neenan form BalletX brought The Last Glass to Milwaukee from Philadelphia. Music by Beirut, a six member contemporary musical ensemble, accompanied ten dancers in a rowdy city scene to reinterpret West Coast America, modern Paris, or a city carnival at night’s end.

In refreshing shades of blues, lavenders, and whites, the dancers' costumes embodied spring itself. The ballerinas’ soft, fluid tutus floated during the lifts and pirouettes, except for one dancer dressed in a lace camisole and pantaloons for romantic contrast. She alone waited and sought a partner throughout the composition, an interesting, evocative narrative inhabiting this enchanting piece. 

During the first intermission, the curtains remained opened to reveal feathers cascading on the stage floor, a prelude to the dance. The acclaimed work titled Extremely Close by resident choreographer and dancer with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Alejandro Cerrudo found its inspiration in the music of Philip Glass and Dustin O’Halloran.

Four couples dressed in black leotards contrasted the feathery white down and movable fabric panels pushed over the stage by the dancers during the performance. Often times Jason Fassl’s lighting designs softened the dancer’s silhouettes, their shadows reflected on the white screens. The sophisticated selection produced a contemplative mood, especially when the last dancer lying on the stage was swept with the feathers off the floor by a swathe of black cloth in the finale. 

To finish the evening, Lila York’s Celts discovered a lighthearted grace in the fast paced and lithesome footwork, both on pointe and in slippers for the Milwaukee Ballet corps. Sometimes 27 dancers appeared in highly coordinated patterns on the stage, often further translated into a classical dance repertoire. Traditional Irish music complemented costumes colored in hues that evoked wood nymphs and worn by the corps who performed flawlessly with several striking pas de deuxs during the performance.

The Celts' vibrant melodies made the audience’s toes tap quietly and presented a complex and entusiastic finish to the performance in honor of Milwaukee’s early spring. Come May, the city can look forward to a reprise of Peter Pan and a journey to Neverland. The full-length ballet returns to the Uihlein Hall stage by popular demand on March 10-13 and tickets are selling quickly.

In the year ahead, the 2012-2013 season excites the ballet fan with an original production of La Bohème and Swan Lake. In between these two productions, the Genesis competition and Spring Series, along with the holiday season’s The Nutcracker, will provide another year where ballet soars to new heights in Milwaukee. Be sure to purchase tickets for the company's entertaining flight. 

For more information on The Milwaukee Ballet’s Peter Pan coming in May, or a subscription for the 2012-2013 season, call 414,902.2103 or click the link to the left.            by Peggy Sue Dunigan.