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Monday, April 15, 2013

What A Show!

Wild contrasts at the Milwaukee Ballet

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In Mozart Requiem, the first of three wildly contrasting works presented by Milwaukee Ballet in its immensely enjoyable “Spring Series” last weekend, Amy Seiwert's choreography mirrors the structure of Mozart's work for chorus, soloists and orchestra. With its faith in formal beauty, classicism is presented as an edifice against death and the unknown by both composer and choreographer. Tall columns of sheer fabric, delicately bathed in light, formed the backdrop. A dancer was enveloped by one; she seemed a ghost or angel. The men in pale silver tights with bare chests and the bare-armed women in soft dresses of the same spiritual shade formed a community of humble mortals grounding themselves in the difficult choreography. Seiwert's steps are an entirely contemporary manifestation of classical values, never predictable and always gorgeous. Representing the four solo voices, Luz San Miguel, Susan Gartell, Isaac Sharratt and Timothy O'Donnell danced with sublime grace.

The triumphant world premiere of O'Donnell's Children of the Wall followed. Twelve of the company's best dancers formed a tribe of bold young men and women fashioning identities. O'Donnell's metaphor is the Berlin Wall which fell in 1989 to create a new urban canvas for Germans now the age of this cast. "That boy needs therapy…what does that mean?" are lyrics from "Frontier Psychiatrist," one of the brilliant choices for musical accompaniment. Words were everywhere—projected on the black backdrop, heard in historic recordings and poems. "Help me to survive this deadly love" accompanied a 1971 photo of the Russian Gorbachev kissing the communist mayor of East Berlin. Made with and for his colleagues, O'Donnell's extravagant steps celebrate and liberate them. It's a joyous, sexy trip, from Justin Genna's steamy opening solo to the giddy duet by Marc Petrocci and Barry Molina as manic club kids, from Mengjun Chen's astonishing leg extensions to the final image of shadowy creatures prowling beneath the banner of "Freedom."

You could enjoy Darrell Grand Moultrie's Simply Sammy with your eyes closed. Knockout versions of nine standards sung by Sammy Davis Jr. comprised the soundtrack, mixed with stage patter by the master entertainer and adoring applause from audiences. I'm haunted by the complicated history behind the flashy "moves" the ballet dancers courageously executed dressed in lounge and ballroom wear. Marshall L. Davis Jr., an extraordinary tap dancer in the classical tradition, performed with magisterial depth acquired through a lifetime in show biz. Milwaukee Ballet's Nicole Teague, in high heels, was a worthy partner for him. Mayara Pineiro, Alexandre Ferreira and David Hovhannisyan were sensational in treacherous solos. Barry Molina did consecutive back flips down the center of the Uihlein Hall stage. What a show!