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Toe Shoes, Tap Shoes and Trip-Hop

Milwaukee Ballet's Eclectic Spring Series

Apr. 12, 2013
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With Mozart, Sammy Davis, Jr. and DJ Wax Tailor as musical inspirations, the three contemporary works in Milwaukee Ballet's Spring Series could hardly be more different. Once again, Artistic Director Michael Pink has arranged a program that exploits the versatility and dramatic range of his great dancers. The nationally celebrated choreographers Amy Seiwert and Darrell Grand Moultrie paid visits to the city to reset, respectively, her Mozart Requiem and his Simply Sammy to the company. The eminent French DJ's club music will accompany Children of the Wall, a world premiere by the company's new young resident choreographer, Timothy O'Donnell.

Mozart died while composing this Requiem. Seiwert uses his unfinished meditation on death to conduct her own. Mozart Requiem was created for San Francisco's Smuin Ballet in 2011 to honor its late founder Michael Smuin. The choreography is rooted in classicism—women dance on point, not always the case in contemporary work—but classical conventions are employed in thoroughly contemporary ways. Seen in video, the fast-paced choreography has great vitality and demands great virtuosity.

Moultrie has said that Simply Sammy is simply intended to celebrate the music of the black, swing-era icon whose songs provide the score. Co-created in 2010 with world-renowned tap dancer Marshall Davis, Jr., Simply Sammy is built around the dancer, who will perform it with Milwaukee Ballet's international company. Made by, with and about an African American artist, this multicultural show-biz homage should be more than hugely entertaining.

Remixes of "Que Sera Sera" and the Nina Simone songbook are "not what I would usually choose for music," O'Donnell said, "but I couldn't do a work like this without that." His piece is about the brave new world of Berliners born after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Before joining Milwaukee Ballet last fall—a brave step for one of Australia's rising ballet stars—he spent some months exploring Europe. The young Germans he encountered in Berlin nightclubs, who seemed the product of a new cultural moment, fascinated him. The fall of the Wall, he reasoned, gave people now in their early twenties a chance to re-think freedom.

Children of the Wall opens with a poem by Pulitzer Prize winner C.K. Williams about the compulsion to build walls that inevitably fail. The six men and six women in the cast—radiant performers all—represent characters O'Donnell encountered in Berlin and wants us to meet.

Spring Series runs April 11-14 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, 929 N. Water St. For ticket reservations, call 414-902-2103 or visit milwaukeeballet.org.


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