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Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012

Milwaukee Ballet's Young Choreographers Accept the Challenge

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Milwaukee Ballet Artistic Director Michael Pink has often said that the company's winter and spring programs of contemporary one-act ballets are designed to provide the dancers with exciting challenges. Freed to be themselves instead of story characters, the dancers put their skills and artistry in service to choreographers who are testing their own limits. Audiences get a fuller sense of the range of each dancer's abilities, and everybody learns a little more about what's possible today in ballet.

"I don't know if Milwaukee realizes what they have," says the award-winning Chicagoan Brock Clawson, one of three young choreographers making dances for the new "Winter Series" at the Pabst Theater, Feb. 16-19. "The only reason I can attempt to make a dance that is a growing experience for me is because of these dancers. They're too good for me not to put a ton of work into it." Clawson is also a landscape designer. He wonders if people, like plants, need the right place to grow. In Crossing Ashland, the dancers alternately present themselves as sidewalk pedestrians and, in highly athletic pure dance, as people seeking place and connection.

"It's nice to be back in a place where you felt inspired," said Mauro de Candia, winner of the Ballet's 2011 Genesis International Choreographic Competition for his stunning, flamboyantly silly parody of ballet classicism. "I'm going a step further in terms of ironical hilarity," he says about his new Purple Fools, in which five couples engage in power competitions at a cocktail party. "Intricate partnering, I think, is my trademark. I bring a structure to the dancers and together we build it. They push my ideas." A native of Verona, Italy, De Candia was just appointed artistic director of the venerable Dance Company Theatre Osnabrück in Germany, making him the youngest director of a German State Theatre in 15 years.

Milwaukee Ballet dancer and choreographer Petr Zahradnicek set his new Autumn Leaves to selected songs by Gabriel Fauré. The talented Florentine Opera Studio Artists and pianist Steven Ayers will perform the music live. The subject is the passage of time as expressed by the seasons, which magically change at varying speeds during the dance. Now 30-something, Zahradnicek is approaching the end of his career as a dancer. "I have a sense of comfort knowing that everything and everyone is going through change," he explains.

The "Winter Series" runs Feb. 16-19 at the Pabst Theater, 144 E. Wells St. Friday's show includes a talk-back with dancers Marc Petrocci and Susan Gartell. For more information, call 414-902-2103 or visit www.milwaukeeballet.org.