Peggy Sue Dunigan
Dancing with Common People

Milwaukee Ballet does “Live and Kicking”

By - May 19th, 2009 09:59 pm

Live and Kicking, images courtesy Milwaukee BalletClosing the 2008-2009 season on an upbeat note, the Milwaukee Ballet’s Live and Kicking featured three numbers that showcased the common joys of everyday people. Three diverse pieces presented last weekend offered audiences a glimpse at the choreography of Val Caniparoli, Mark Godden and the influential Margo Sappington for an intriguing evening of dance.

Caniparoli’s Gustav’s Rooster literally jump-started the performance with music by the Swedish rock band Hoven Droven. Based on an album dedication from the band to a pet made in jest, a lighted rooster was suspended center stage. This also inspired Sandra Woodall’s costumes, with men in red tailcoats and women dressed in swirling grey skirts. With an eclectic score referencing bluegrass and rural country rhythms, dancers crowed and cocked their arms and elbows against Lighting Designer Lisa Pinkham’s sherbet sunrise or in silhouette to the onstage burnt orange sunset. The entire piece played out much to the delight of the audience.

The next dance was Wonder Wild from choreographer Mark Godden, which characterized author James Joyce’s text from “Finnegan’s Wake”. The ballet was a kind of short narrative modeled after Joyce’s novel, in which the dancers explored Anna Livia Plurabelle’s need for attention, fame, and love from an adolescent perspective–often overshadowed by a father’s compulsion for work. The appealing piece combined a variety of music including selections from the Royal Irish Regiment Band. Rachel Malehorn, in floor length flowing silk, portrayed Plurabelle’s teenage angst with haunting steps.

In a reprise of Margo Sappington’s Common People which premiered with the Milwaukee Ballet two years ago, the witty repartee of William Shatner was heard audibly through his album “Has Been”. With a score arranged by piano man Ben Folds based on the cult favorite Pulp rock anthem, Sappington’s choreography sparkled as the saffron-, cinnamon-, and cranberry-colored leotards whisked across the stage. It was an interesting combination of passions which first inspired the Special Entertainment, Inc.’s documentary “William Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet“, recently shown at the Nashville Film Festival and privately here in Milwaukee before a wider release planned for later in the year.

In the piece there is a complicated and charming pas de deux, Familiar Love, featuring Diana Stetsura and Douglas McCubbin which then flows into a spicy number titled Ideal Women–singling out Jacqueline Moscicke. As the centerpiece of the evening, the Milwaukee Ballet’s tribute to the trials of daily life in Common People resonated with laughter and verve, capping a successful season of performances by this year’s gifted company.

The current troupe returns from the St. Louis stint to eventually prep for a big new season opening October with Cinderella, moving then into the traditional December staging of the Nutcracker before leaping into 2010 with Innovative Motion, Pure Dance, and the wild world premiere of Peter Pan. In the meantime, look for them as they support this year’s Miller Ride for the Arts, Gathering on the Green, and the youthful Emergence 2009 at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center.

For tickets or information regarding the Milwaukee Ballet’s 2009-2010 season: 414.902.2103 or

Categories: Arts & Culture, Dance, VITAL

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