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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

‘Art to Art’: Experiments in Dance

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All artists need the opportunity to fail. Risk-taking is indispensable. What serious opportunities for trial and error exist for artists in Milwaukee after they leave the relative safety of a college program? This is not an idle question.

Danceworks recognizes that it is a community’s job to provide laboratories for artists and they have accepted their share of the responsibility. Liz Hildebrandt, a graduate of UW-Milwaukee’s dance department, was a grateful participant in the company’s first DanceLAB project six years ago. She is now its director. DanceLAB currently produces several events each summer, including the recent “ScreenDance”program of dance-film collaborations and an upcoming tap concert. “Art to Art”seems to me to be central to its vision: a concert of new work by early career choreographers teamed with creative people from non-dance disciplines. It provides a potentially illuminating show for audiences and a significant step for artists new to the field.

 “If they don’t leave town, we can help them find their place,” Hildebrandt says. “We provide a situation in which they won’t lose their shirts.”

Anyone can submit a proposal. Collaboration defines the performing arts today, so it makes sense that proposals must come from teams. This year, eight teams were selected. Lauren Hafner Addison and design engineer Elizabeth Alstad address the impact of the physical environment on the body. Puppeteer Kurt Hartwig helped Julianna LaRosa and graphic designer Jordan Melrood realize their fantasy Who Wants to Be the Bearded Lady? Mary-Elizabeth Fenn teamed with industrial designer Chris Metcalf and sound designer Dakotah Cornelius on Dinner With Mike and Barb, which involves an unusual dining event. Alison Leonard, Hannah Marquardt, Molly Mingey, Jessie Mae Scibek, Katie Rhyme, Karen Zakrzewski, and Alexandria Watry are the other choreographers. Their distinguished collaborators include composers, musicians, costumers, writers and theater artists.

The teams participate in 12 hours of choreographic workshops with Danceworks professionals to experience a range of approaches to dance-making. They receive a stipend to cover costs. Six weeks before opening, they present their unfinished work to an audience of DanceLAB participants and a growing general public. Using a guided feedback process developed by renowned choreographer, teacher and former Milwaukeean Liz Lerman, the artists and audience talk critically about the works in progress. Then it’s back to work. The finished performances will be presented at 7:30 p.m. July 30-31 in the Danceworks Studio Theatre, 1661 N. Water St.