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Vulnerable, Impulsive Visionaries in UWM's 'Summerdances'

May. 29, 2012
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Christina Briggs Winslow, the new visiting assistant professor in the dance department of UW-Milwaukee's Peck School of the Arts, is one of five distinguished choreographers whose work will be performed May 31-June 2 in this year's “Summerdances,” the department's annual end-of-the-year concert. Winslow works internationally and is co-director of Incidents Physical Theater in New York. She arrived this winter to help close the gaps created by the death of chair Ed Burgess and the departure of bedrock faculty member Janet Lilly.

Winslow's new work Undertow reflects her experience with the students. “I loved getting to know them, and, as always, the process is revealed in the product,” she says, capturing what makes these student concerts so appealing. The department's extraordinary faculty members, each a strong artist, are devoted mentors to the young performers in their care, helping them add their own visions to the dance. The audience feels these deep relationships.

“Destiny/Chance and Circumstance,” the concert's subtitle and inspiration, suggests the vulnerability of young people facing uncertain futures. Winslow's Undertow allows its five dancers to forge and abandon relationships during the dance. “The more we get into the dance, the more we see each other,” one student says at a rehearsal.

Choreographer Colleen Thomas credits the students as co-creators of The Year of Unremarkable Laughter, an urgent dance about impermanence with references to Alice in Wonderland. Thomas won this year's Dance New Work Award, a grant from an anonymous donor to a UWM alumnus to create a premiere with undergraduates.

Gerald Casel, last year's winner, is finishing his year as visiting assistant professor. The cool, reverberating mystery of his dances is a perfect complement to other work in town, and I hope he'll return. His new Adroit is a reimagining with eight students of a 2006 quartet originated by his professional New York company. The students invented new material from one another's stream-of-consciousness writing.

Elizabeth Johnson and Luc Vanier, partners in life and in Your Mother Dances (YMD), their professional Milwaukee company, make some of the sexiest dances in town. Johnson and the students have revamped YMD's funny-lovely Impulsive Minors. Vanier's Bob's Palace (2003) is the first dance ever to use infrared motion-capture technology, but he and the students have stripped it to its radical bones.

“Summerdances '12: Destiny/Chance and Circumstance” runs May 31-June 2 at UWM's Mainstage Theatre at 7:30 p.m. with pre-show talks at 6:45. For more information, call 414-229-4308 or visit www.arts.uwm.edu/dance.


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