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Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011

Your Mother Dances' Full-Bodied Movement

Talented Milwaukee company presents 'Stripped Roundly'

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If you heard that Elizabeth Johnson and Luc Vanier, the artistic leaders of Your Mother Dances, were leaving town, don't worry. They're staying, and as I watched a rehearsal of their upcoming concert “Stripped Roundly,” it was clear to me that this is a real dance company. Most of the dancers are UW-Milwaukee grads who've worked together for years, and they completely inhabit Johnson's and Vanier's dances. Though radically different in style, both choreographers create difficult, full-bodied movement that is impossible to hide behind. Absorbed in steps that take everything they can give, the dancers look nakedly human. To lose this company would be a shame.

The performances take place in UWM's Mitchell Hall, Room 254—a spacious, high-ceilinged studio with seats on all sides. The dancers are close. You can catch their sweat.

Three new works comprise the program. Johnson's The Grey Side is an elegy for Ed Burgess, the brilliant chair of UWM's dance department who, in words spoken as part of the dance, “was found lying peacefully on his side” in bed last May after dying in the night. The tender piece does justice to the shock and grief experienced by all who knew him, these dancers among them.

Vanier's Deflating Debussy is uncompromisingly experimental. By focusing on a single aspect of ballet technique involving the upper back, head and shoulders, and examining it from every movement angle, he and his three ballet dancers have created something compulsively interesting that questions what ballet is and can be. Milwaukee composer Tim Russell's performance of, and extended improvisation upon, Clair de Lune provides sensational accompaniment.

Johnson's Impulsive Minors is set to Chopin's rapturous minor-key nocturnes and was created, she said, “by an impulse process.” The title's other meaning is clear in the performances: Sly allusions to adolescent physicality add sweet vulnerability and humor.

“Stripped Roundly” runs Friday through Tuesday, Sept. 23-27, at 7:30 p.m., with additional matinees Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. A $10 donation in cash or check is requested at the door. For guaranteed reservations, email mom@yourmotherdances.com. Mitchell Hall is located at 3203 N. Downer Ave.
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