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Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011

South Milwaukee PAC Breaks Stereotypes

Milwaukee Ballet II: From Classics to Contemporary

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Two world premieres are included in "Classical to Contemporary," the wide-ranging dance concert by the Milwaukee Ballet's Second Company, presented 1:30 p.m., Oct. 9 at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center.  MBII, as it's known, is the professional training arm of the Milwaukee Ballet.  Twenty talented dancers aged 18 – 23 from the U.S., Australia, Brazil, China, France, Japan and the Philippines were chosen by audition for the program designed to prepare them for careers in ballet companies across the planet.

A full-scale public performance like this is a rare, wonderful opportunity for the dancers who normally focus on training, educational outreach, in-house studio concerts and small roles in large cast ballets like The Nutcracker.  It's also a rare, wonderful opportunity for audiences to meet the exciting dancers in performance and in a post-show talk hosted by Milwaukee Ballet artistic director Michael Pink.

"Classical To Contemporary" is an excellent antidote to the stereotype of ballet as elitist, distant and boring.  Symphony, a world premiere choreographed by Rolando Yanes, MB II's director and a former principle dancer with Milwaukee Ballet, is in the modern classical style of the great George Balanchine, Yanes said, but "with a twist."  He knows what surprises his dancers can give. The music is Prokofiev's "First Symphony."

The second premiere is Half Empty by guest teacher Victor Ramirez. Set to music by French composer Yann Tiersen, whose songs provide the soundtrack for the film Amelie, it showcases the company's men in a contemporary ballet about the proverbial glass.

Nadia Thompson, ballet mistress for the regular company, contributed a fast Grande Tarantella that emphasizes each dancer's virtuosity. Yanes' Tango Apasionado, to Astor Piazzolla's ravishing music, is everything its title suggests.  Lakefront Date by Petr Zahradnicek, a leading artist in the regular company with a growing national reputation as a choreographer, is about our beloved lakefront.

Two classical works complete the bill. Grand Pas Classique, created in Paris in 1949, is "technically one of the hardest pieces in the classical repertory," Yanes said.  Prima ballerinas traditionally dance the four roles in Pas de Quatre, which premiered in London in 1845. It should be lovely to see it danced by newcomers.

This performance is a tribute to the hard work of Chad Piechocki, director of the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, and his determination to add dance to the Center's programming.

The South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center is at 901 15th Avenue in South Milwaukee.  Call 414-766-5049 or visit www.southmilwaukeepac.org