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Monday, March 29, 2010

‘Pure Dance’ at the Marcus Center

Milwaukee Ballet’s hurricane of gorgeous, complicated dancing

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In my decades of touring with Theatre X, we always said that you can’t begin to know a show until you’ve played it 30 times. Last week I enjoyed the opening performance of the Milwaukee Ballet’s latest concert, “Pure Dance,”which included two brand-new ballets and a third that was new to the company. Just weeks before, the company also presented two world premieres and one Milwaukee premiere in “Innovative Motion,” and the season opened with an all-new Cinderella.

In a few months, these dancers have had five ballets created around them and made two existing works their own. Each had four performances, most with two casts so that each dancer had two chances to perform it. In addition, the company has only hours to adapt each ballet from the studio to the Marcus Center stage with costumes, props, scenery, lighting and sound issues.

It’s a testament to the valor, skill and devotion of everyone involved that the quality is so consistently high. Audiences feel such gratitude for the huge-hearted, risk-taking dancing that pours from the stage that small mistakes are easily forgiven, and searching work that may not have reached its full potential is rightfully cheered. The Ballet produced a slew of babies this season that should have more than the lifespan of mayflies. No serious human endeavor can be fully understood so quickly.

I wish I had space to praise each dancer who performed in “Pure Dance.” All are fine technicians with powerful presences, and seemed to really care for each other on stage. They looked sensational in Jerry Opdenaker’s fast, dervish-like Coeur de Basque. Company member Petr Zahradnicek’s Concourse featured two intricate duets: a funny apache-style brawl (Susan Gartell, Justin Genna) and a lovers’ exploration too intimate for words (Rachel Malehorn, Michael Linsmeier). However, the piece lost direction toward the end, when a multiplication of symbolic props diminished the impact each object had initially. Val Caniparoli’s Blades of Grass was a hurricane of gorgeous, staggeringly complicated dancing. It belongs to this company, and I hope to see it again and again.