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Milwaukee’s Expanding Dance Theater Universe

Oct. 25, 2016
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The 1-year-old Milwaukee Dance Theatre Network (MDTN) was finding its legs, or so it seemed to me, at its first anniversary gathering on Oct. 1 at Danceworks. The members are the artistic leaders of many of Milwaukee’s dance organizations and movement-oriented theater companies. MDTN meets seasonally to address practical issues and figure ways to enhance the vibrancy of Milwaukee’s fast-growing dance theater community. It aims to be an information hub for dance, dance theater and physical theater artists of all generations, communities, budgets and performance styles.

A decade ago, Milwaukee’s dance season was compact: four shows and The Nutcracker by Milwaukee Ballet, three by Danceworks Performance Company and three, including one site-specific adventure, by Debra Loewen’s Wild Space Dance Company. Add to that the UW-Milwaukee dance department’s winter and summer concerts, a couple of touring shows hosted by Alverno Presents and the rare performance by the long- and still-standing DanceCircus and Ko-Thi Dance Company. The former Milwaukee Dance Theatre had become Theatre Gigante, a dance-theater hybrid.

MDTN includes Milwaukee Ballet, Danceworks, Wild Space and the UWM dance department in the person of Simone Ferro. Many new generation movement artists in town were parented by those four organizations and are linked with MDTN through them. The Catey Ott Dance Collective, The Field Milwaukee (which helps artists in the development of original work) and Finite Bodies have such links but are MDTN members in their own right. Theatre Gigante is a member along with the newer hybrid companies Quasimondo Milwaukee Physical Theatre and Cooperative Performance Milwaukee. Milwaukee Opera Theatre and Cadance Collective are members whose work links movement and music. Kim Miller is the MDTN link to performance art at MIAD. Membership is wide open. Interested artists should visit the website at mkedancetheatrenetwork.org.

Catey Ott Thompson chaired the Oct. 1 meeting. Dan Schuchart—co-founder with his wife, Monica Rodero, of Finite Bodies and, like Rodero, a pillar of Wild Space Dance Company—curates the network’s website. Ferro kept minutes and Joelle Worm of The Field Milwaukee volunteered to serve as treasurer, a position currently without responsibilities. Conversation touched on money: Who will raise it and how will it be used? The website was another topic. It features a comprehensive citywide calendar of performances, auditions, classes and workshops, and a page for each member’s mission statement, photos, previews and links to company websites.

Plans were made for a major one-day event this winter. Member companies will present information and offer movement workshops so attendees can experience directly the styles and methods of the choreographers and they, in turn, can meet emerging artists. The event will shine light on the variety of dance and movement-based theater in Milwaukee and the resources available to artists who’d like to live and work here. 

The Milwaukee Fringe Festival will participate since it provides artists with a citywide showcase. Dance theater played a giant role in the festival’s premiere in August. Two of the festival’s production team, Karen Raymond and Katie Rhyme of Dance Revolution Milwaukee, made sure of that. In fact, DRM’s long-running MKE Follies series was the seed from which the Fringe Fest flower grew. 

The list of Fringe Fest dance and movement artists hints at the size of today’s community. That list includes the Catey Ott Dance Collective, Maria Gillespie and Tim Russell’s Hyperlocal, Gillespie’s Oni Dance, Karl von Rabinau and Jennifer Miller’s Lake Arts Project, Morgan Williams’ and Melissa Sue Anderson’s SueMo: A Dance Experience, the Dawn Springer Dance Project, the Radermacher Dance Company, the Draves Dance Collective, the C.S. Dance Collective, Distance Dance, Parallel and Fusion Dance, Salsabrosa, Panadanza, Moved to Be, Imaginez, BOINK! Dance and Film, the solo artists Kelsey Lee, Brett Cox, Thom Cauley and the hybrid artist Kathryn Cesarz, as well as Quasimondo, Cooperative Performance Milwaukee and Theatre Gigante.

And any list of today’s dance theater artists must include Milwaukee Ballet’s second company MBII, Amy Brinkman-Sustache’s Danceworks on Tap, Kim Johnson’s Danceworks DanceLAB, Andrea and Daniel Burkholder’s monthly Real Time events and other manifestations, the Gina Laurenzi Dance Project, Kym McDaniel, Kirk Thomsen and Posy Knight, Jenni Reinke, Richard Brasfield, ReVamped Dance Company, Poison D, the Joshua Yang Project, Clayvon Savage, Kyra Boprie, Demar Walker, Destiny, Terrence Morris Jr. and if she ever returns to town, Mauriah Kraker. I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface.

On Saturday, Oct. 29 at 5:30 and 7 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 30 at 1:30 and 3 p.m., the Catey Ott Dance Collective will present 3d4all2c-Keys to Life at Marquette University’s Opus College of Engineering’s visualization lab, aptly named MARVL, in room #028 on the lower level of the Engineering Hall, 1637 W. Wisconsin Ave. 3D glasses will be provided to the 30 audience members admitted to each performance of this full-length spirit-themed journey in dance, music and jaw-dropping 3D visuals. It will be a dreamy step into Milwaukee’s expanding dance universe. 

Since 3d4all2c seats only 30, pre-order tickets at cateyottdancecollective3D.brownpapertickets.com. Tickets are $15-$20.

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