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Your Mother Dances in Transit

Milwaukee choreographers get out of town

Dec. 20, 2012
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“G O T / I T (Get Out of Town/In Transition)” is the largely tongue-in-cheek title of a dance concert by two choreographers with strong Milwaukee ties who've just left town. Elizabeth Johnson, founder and artistic director of the Milwaukee company Your Mother Dances, is midway through a yearlong visiting professorship at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Gerald Casel, the acclaimed artist in residence with the UW-Milwaukee Dance Department for the past two years, has started a full-time professorship at the University of California in Long Beach.

Both choreographers create attractive, intellectually engaging dances. Their distinctive styles should provide an enjoyable contrast. Casel’s work is a gentle, somewhat abstract, subtle dance that reveals substantial meanings gradually and Johnson’s work is frank, pop-oriented, sexy and often funny. Neither shies from political subjects.

Your Mother Dances has introduced works by many notable Americans since its founding in 2006 and Johnson wanted Casel added to that roster. Casel’s 2008 piece Save The Robots! will be the evening’s centerpiece, bookended by two of Johnson’s dances: the holiday-themed 2 Good 2 Last (2010) and the premiere of Petty Things, developed last summer.

refers to a beloved former New York after-hours club. Casel calls the dance, which was created with his New York company, “a response to the loss of artistic expression and integrity brought on by gentrification.”

2 Good 2 Last
is set to Harry Belafonte’s 1958 album of Caribbean-influenced Christmas songs. Johnson’s parents loved it. She grew up with it and it represents the season, for her, in ways that feel sacred, she said, “but not religiously exclusive.” Female dancers carry and support male dancers, Madonna-like. “Your children grow,” she said, “but you carry the memory of them as hold-able.”

Petty Things
is “a personal response to a tough year in which I felt the need to creatively blow off steam and have fun,” Johnson said. The company’s eight women will dance in cheerleader outfits to Tom Petty’s songs. “What do girls have the right to do performatively?” Johnson asks. “The dance might have underlying social commentary, but it could be just fun and that’s OK. I don’t know what’s next for me, so every moment is special and worth enjoying. It’s enough that I had fun making it and the dancers have fun dancing it.”

G O T / I T runs 8 p.m. Dec. 20-22 at UW-Milwaukee’s Mitchell Hall Studio 254 at 3203 N. Downer Ave. Tickets are $15-$25 at the door by cash or check only, or visit brownpapertickets.com/event/288127 to purchase in advance.


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