Peggy Sue Dunigan

Choreographer’s triptych

By - May 21st, 2008 02:52 pm
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In a triptych of ballet selections, The Milwaukee Ballet captured a complete repertoire of styles in Season Finale. This last performance of the 2007-2008 season showcased the entire company in extraordinary fashion through the work of several choreographers with a captivating trio of pieces: The Kingdom of Shades, Aubade and Offenbach in the Underworld.

Beginning the evening with costumes in classic white tutus and coats, gilded in gold, the dancers in The Kingdom of Shades presented traditional ballet with arabesque sequences and corps divertissement. This selection from the full-length ballet La Bayadere, a love story of a temple dancer and noble warrior in legendary India, features pas de deuxs by Diana Stetsura and David Hovhannisyan. The couple danced in perfect sync, with Hovhannisyan skillfully showing the exquisite positions and pointe technique of Stetsura. Set in a tropical forest of trees, these royal dancers filled the stage as Andrew Sill conducted a portion of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra to music by Ludwig Minkus and the choreography of the ingenious and influential Marius Petipa (1818-1910).

The second selection, Aubade, was a world premiere, choreographed by Milwaukee Ballet’s own Artistic Director Michael Pink as a modern interpretation of lovers leaving each other at dawn. Featuring impressive dance sequences performed by both men and women, this contemporary and romantic vision of ballet took place on a sparse stage shadowed in morning light, from lighting designer Nicholas Phillips. Smooth and evocative, this corps of ten dancers completely covered the stage as Francis Poulenc’s music played through each movement.

To finish the evening and season while celebrating the 100th birthday of choreographer Antony Tudor (1908-1987), the Milwaukee Ballet performed Offenbach in the Underworld. Amid the ambiance of an Art Nouveau set similar to one of Edouard Manet’s paintings of a Paris café, Offenbach delights with stellar performances offset by comic storytelling. Three central pairs of lovers spar through dance while a legion of “local French ladies,” in plaid silk skirts and matching bowed hats, step to the music of Jacques Offenbach as arranged by George Crum. Devilishly showing their sheer black stockings and ruffled undergarments, these flirtatious dancers lifted their skirts to steal several dance scenes, especially in their rendition of the high-kicking can-can. Only the audience’s imagination could fill in the ending to the story of this 1870’s evening in Paris.

When the curtains closed to silent awe, as after a burst of colorful fireworks, the audience had experienced a trio of distinct styles in ballet and choreography and the work of three prominent artists in three periods in dance history: a display of the visual and intellectual spirit of ballet, an art that is equally strenuous and elegant. This Season Finale leaves a sense of the promise of the Milwaukee Ballet’s upcoming season that will begin in fall 2008, bringing another season of richness to a company with incredible value to the city’s art community. VS

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