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Monday, Feb. 4, 2013

Milwaukee Ballet’s Genesis Concert

Three winners perform at annual choreography contest

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Milwaukee Ballet is probably right to call “Genesis” one of the only truly international choreographic competitions in existence. Artistic Director Michael Pink chose this year's finalists from over 30 applicants representing six nations. Choreographers submitted videos of past work and proposals for a new ballet to be created in Milwaukee. According to Pink, this year's submissions were the finest ever.

As it happens, the finalists are all Americans. Lauren Edson, born in Boise, Idaho, was a featured dancer with the celebrated Trey McIntyre Project. Gabrielle Lamb, a native of Savannah, Georgia, was a soloist with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal before moving to New York City at the invitation of the celebrated choreographer Christopher Wheeldon to dance with his company Morphoses. James Gregg, raised in Oklahoma, started his choreographic career with Chicago's fine River North Dance Company and is now a member of Les Ballet Jazz de Montréal in Canada.

Each choreographer was assigned a randomly selected team of the company's great dancers. They were given three weeks to create a 20-minute contemporary ballet for the Genesis concert at the Pabst Theater. First, second and third places will be determined after the closing performance by a panel of national experts and the combined votes of each night's audience. Each choreographer receives a cash prize. The winner is invited back to make a new ballet in 2014.

Remarkably, Timothy O’Donnell, the young Australian who won the competition in 2009, will dance in this year's show. After winning Genesis, O'Donnell co-founded a thriving contemporary ballet company in his hometown of Perth. He returned to Milwaukee Ballet in 2010 to choreograph an exciting balletic protest against religious bigotry to the music of Maurice Ravel’s Boléro. Last fall he joined the company as a dancer and resident choreographer. His newest work will appear in the upcoming Spring Series.

Asked what it means to win Genesis, he said: “With so many good choreographers competing, it's validating to be chosen. Artistic directors look at the award and the international exposure is very helpful.” He added, “When I came here I was very self-conscious about my work to the point that I didn't think I'd hit the mark. Winning gave me confidence to trust my decisions.”

In Genesis, he's dancing in Gregg's piece. “He’s very inspiring," O'Donnell said. "I’m loving every second.”

Genesis runs Feb. 7-10 at the Pabst Theater, 144 E. Wells St. For tickets, call 414-902-2103 or visit milwaukeeballet.org.
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