Entries in The Florentine Opera Studio Artists (1)



Contemporary dance returned to the Pabst Theater this February with stunning choreography. The Milwaukee Ballet debuted three world premieres at their weekend Winter Series, too striking to have missed. These impressive additions to the art form’s repertoire certainly secures the ballet’s future, in Milwaukee and internationally, while enriching audiences in grand style.

The curtain opened on Saturday night to Brock Clawson’s Crossing Ashland, a three-part piece that appeared to speak to the interconnections one makes or misses walking on a city street. People in contemporary dress strutted by each other at the back of the stage, behind the dancers, missing that important eye contact, which imparts an evocative, loose narrative to Clawson’s work.

Clawson’s intricate and intertwined choreography flows together tightly, the dances nearly avoiding that personal touching. Neutral grey colored costumes mute the individual artists and perhaps echo any urban isolation while his mesmerizing paired dancers contrast the detachment displayed by those persons in the street scene behind them. Contemporary music underscored the six couples that completely dominated the stage until the performance ended when two city dwellers finally connected front and center.

In the second premiere Autumn Leaves, live music accompanied Petr Zahradnicek’s contribution that also featured Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera Studio Artists and pianist Steven Ayers. Composer Gabriel Faure’s “Songs for Voice and Piano” inspired this mythological ballet story that reflects life transitions through numerous seasons and years.

Ballet partners shadowed each other’s movements, until one pair was separated, through fluid footwork and incorporating the more traditional pas de deux. All the dancers beckoning to a muse's whims, this one solo dancer who changed the seasons by touching a magically lit tree, and performed en Pointe, a pleasure to watch on stage. The intriguing lifts and departure of several dancers at stage right hinted at a story the audience could romantically relate to by enveloping one dancer's love and loss. 

However, Mauro de Candia’s Purple Fools parodied the performing arts world with dancers dressed in black satin ballet length gowns and elegant black suits with ties. High pompadour hairstyles invoked the harlequin or court jester on stage. The dancer’s 10 white chairs became the foil for this intricate, witty and wondrous combination of the comic and complex choreography that ballet can encompass. 

While both the audience and dancers laughed out loud (integral to the performance), white powder cascaded from the dancer’s pompadours to add another visual dimension on stage, the white fluff softly covering the floor. Smart, sophisticated and visually striking, Purple Fools demonstrated what the best contemporary ballet might be. A performance encouraging the audience to embrace challenging choreography and themes while transforming traditional ballet techniques. De Candia’s work presented conceptually brilliant and technically innovative ballet that delighted the audience. 

Milwaukee Ballet continues to move the artistic bar higher over each passing Winter Series. February 2012 will remain a highlight in the choreographic standards with thankfully more to come this year. The company convincingly portrays why ballet remains a necessary art form in expressing the wonder to body movement, the human form, lyrical voice, and contemporary music merged in stellar combinations. These combinations uplift the spirit and reminds the audience how exhilarating life might be.      

The Milwaukee Ballet presents The Spring Series the weekend of March 29 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Art and reprises the full length ballet Peter Pan beginning May 10. For information or tickets call: 414.902.2103 or click the link to the left.                                               by Peggy Sue Dunigan