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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

‘Divas, Dudes and Dancers’

Present Music performs at the Wherehouse

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Milwaukee’s invaluable contemporary music ensemble Present Music loves to perform in places where the venue inspires the programming. The Wherehouse (818 S. Water St.) on Water Street at the east end of National Avenue is a cool nightclub with a beautiful view of the harbor, good acoustics and space for seating. On Friday, June 18, at 6 and 9 p.m., the club, its environs and a small bandstand will accommodate the group’s final concert of the season, a cabaret-like variety show titled “Divas, Dudes and Dancers.”

The other sources of programming inspiration are Artistic Director Kevin Stalheim’s extensive knowledge of contemporary music and the group’s commitment to sharing concerts with local artists. This time, the featured composer, duYun, accompanying herself on laptop, will perform a set of original songs and join the Present Music ensemble in two of her longer works. Stalheim described her music as very complex, precise, gestural and unique, a kind of moody, alternative pop; hence the diva assignation. Stalheim invited choreographer-dancer Kelly Anderson and singer Robin Pluer to represent the “divas” of Milwaukee, and enlisted three local “dudes” to complete the bill: composer Chris Burns, choreographer Luc Vanier and accordionist Stas Venglevski.

Dancers Jaimi Patterson and Steven Moses will perform Vanier's new duet, titled Love’s Fodder, to electronic music Burns created with computer programs and files of his own design. Vanier’s piece for the Milwaukee Ballet this season impressed me with its beauty and searching spirit. He described the subject here as “intimacy and repetition.” When a pas de deux in any style works, he said, it’s because both dancers give up their egos, their habitual ways of interfacing with the world that, if clung to, limit them. He means this as a metaphor for all our relationships. The dancers must pay attention to one another to solve each choreographic problem and dance the dance, over and over and always anew.

Anderson, a member and resident choreographer of Danceworks Performance Company who is known for her pop aesthetic and vaudeville approach, will dance her own work. Sebben Crudele was originally created for the recent Milwaukee Opera Theatre production 26. She described the dance as a “tasteful burlesque,” a soul-bearing striptease to a slip performed for an unseen lover before whom she feels vulnerable. In 26, it occurred before any narrative framework emerged, and it needs no other context than this thoughtful Present Music nightclub entertainment.

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