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Inspiring Program by MBII's Young International Cast at South Milwaukee PAC

Jan. 31, 2017
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Photo credit: Jennifer Mazza Photography

Last Saturday’s concert by this year’s Nancy Einhorn Milwaukee Ballet II Company (MBII for short) featured dancers from five countries, aged 17-22, in four fine world premieres and a recreated gypsy pas de sept by the 19th-century Danish choreographer August Bournonville. There were brief solos and several knockout duets, but the overall impression was of a dedicated collective of equally important and distinct individuals who care for one another. Ego-free yet personal, committed to the highest values of the art, they gave an inspiring performance.

“Momentum,” the concert’s title, is what MBII offers dancers beginning their professional careers. The opener, “Time,” was choreographed by MBII director Rolando Yanes. Milwaukee Ballet’s sensitive pianist Dan Boudewyns played etudes by the Spanish classical composer Enrique Granados (1867-1916) at a grand piano center stage. The dancers listened; then began to translate these studies into pliant neoclassical steps in various groupings and patterns that suggested individual desires. One dancer ran as if to escape but another brought him back and comforted him.

Garrett Glassman, a former MBII dancer now doing outstanding work in the main company, made his choreographic debut with “Ruach,” Hebrew for spirit, wind or breath. In this exciting, low-lighted, twisty dance, men and women formed a protective flock and a couple bonded as if life depended on it.

A gown on a clothes hanger and the loveliest piano rendition imaginable of a Hello, Dolly! number introduced Thom Dancy’s “My Dearest Horace Vandergelder.” Another former MBII member, Dancy set sprightly Cab Calloway jazz to playful movements for a dancing band dressed like Dolly’s waiters; then segued to languorous old-style cabaret imagery featuring a generous Mio Yokokura in red gown and long white gloves partnered by all the others in a loving tribute to great music and good manners.

Filled with tricky steps and brio, the Bournonville is a portrait of gracefulness and graciousness as human ideals. “But the Swans are Still Alive” by Cuban choreographer Tania Bolivia Vergara is among the wisest, most compassionate, most ravishing short dances I’ve ever seen. It made me care no end for its 16 boys and girls in tutus. I want to see it again and again. I came home from this heavenly show at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center to the hellish news of foreign travelers held in airports, barred from admission to America by our president. The news inspired nightmares, the concert courage.


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