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Milwaukee Ballet's 'Spring Series'

Outstanding world premieres and a celebrated work

Apr. 9, 2014
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Photo by Mark Frohna
In Passing, a one-act ballet by San Francisco-based choreographer Amy Seiwert and the first of two world premieres presented by Milwaukee Ballet in its “Spring Series” at the Marcus Center last weekend, is about beauty and time, value and disintegration. The central image is of a woman (a beautiful Janel Meindersee) moving terribly slowly across the far upstage from left to right, managing a line of ever-lengthening cloth extending from her waist to an unseen point offstage. She interacts with it in evolving ways as other dancers create images of great beauty and vitality at speed. Tenderness is constant, as is comradeship of a high order. Like the choreography, the often-plaintive music by the young Icelander Ólafur Arnalds employs traditional means in new ways to capture how it feels to be alive now. With outstanding unisex costumes by Christine Darch, gorgeous lighting by David Grill and perfect dancing by an ensemble led by Ryan Martin and Nicole Teague, it’s a small masterpiece. I could have watched it forever.

Something Borrowed, the program’s second commissioned world premiere, is wonderful in an almost opposite way. Philadelphia-based choreographer Matthew Neenan created a deadpan fantasy of invincibly cool club kids dancing and romancing to songs by Pink Martini, a hot band of musicians and singers who, in effect, borrow from the pop music traditions of many countries to create iconic postmodern lounge music. The choreography likewise revels in an idealized surface: optimistic, egalitarian, non-sexist dreams to will away melancholy and fear. This work, too, was blessed with vintage-fashionista costumes by Darch and Grill’s richly colored lighting.

Neenan invents characters that let individual dancers shine. In this bit of space, I can thank him for Alexandre Ferreira’s funny-sexy opening solo, Susan Gartell and Davit Hovhannisyan’s droll centerpiece duet, and everything Luz San Miguel did. But really, everybody was a treat.

May Milwaukee Ballet find ways to revive both of its new works and commission others from Seiwert and Neenan.

Strong dancing and a heroic onstage performance by pianist Steven Ayers provided good reasons to enjoy Our Waltzes, a celebrated 1976 work by the late Venezuelan choreographer Vicente Nebrada. Draped on a string of bright Viennese waltzes reconstructed with a Latin flavor by the 19th-century Venezuelan composer Teresa Carreño, it’s a cleverly structured if basically old-fashioned showcase for any company’s dancers. Here, there was lots to applaud and even some laughs to be had.


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