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Love Trumps Hate in Milwaukee Ballet’s ‘Scheherazade’

Oct. 24, 2016
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Photo by Mark Frohna

Kathryn Posin began her choreographic career in modern dance in the late 1960s as her generation battled war, sexism and racism. She made her first ballet, a cry about AIDS, for Milwaukee Ballet. After several successful ballets here, the company commissioned her to make Scheherazade. The world premiere in 2003 was the company’s first production, after The Nutcracker, under Michael Pink’s leadership. All of that history came together on opening night of the superb revival of the ballet last week. It was there in the work’s bold mash-up of classical ballet and theater dancing, in the confident and imaginative storytelling so intelligently matched to the music and especially in the championing of all that’s best in people. In Posin’s adaption of 1001 Arabian Nights, love trumps hate.

The dance company looked great. With her powerful acting, supple spine and amazing leg extensions, Marize Fumero gave an outstanding performance in the title role. Garrett Glassman’s performance as the genie of the lamp was another constant astonishment. Davit Hovhannisyan, Annia Hidalgo, Luz San Miguel, Nicole Teague-Howell and Barry Molina danced like the titans they are. Timothy O’Donnell’s transformation into the villain was so complete I didn’t recognize him. He made every nuance of his character’s thinking visible. The newcomers Jonathan Batista in the virtuoso role of the Moon Prince and Randy Crespo in the gymnastic role of Sinbad made gorgeous debuts.

Maybe it’s because Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s score is so luscious that the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra has never sounded better to me, but I also think they played the hell out of it. Music Director Andrews Sill took precisely the right, sometimes surprising, tempos for the dancing and storytelling. It was an altogether joyous homecoming for Posin’s ballet and a reflection of a lifetime of dance making.

The concert opened with Mark Godden’s Angels in the Architecture, a work so exquisite it brought tears of happiness. The music is a suite from Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. The music is often atmospheric, so it’s impossible for the 12 dancers to move on the beats. Nonetheless, the choreography requires them to move together, taking cues from one another even when they can’t see one another. They must find a common mind; portray a spiritual community by becoming one. With egoless commitment, they work to serve angels, each in his or her way. It made for an extraordinarily beautiful experience and a challenging life lesson.


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