What’s Behind the Façade?
In 1931, the great English choreographer Frederick Ashton raised the piece's reputation by setting a ballet to it. Here, DPC Artistic Director Dani Kuepper provided choreography from beginning to end for six DPC company dancers and seven guests. MOT Artistic Director Jill Anna Ponasik had her four singers/speakers move among and often with the dancers. MCO Artistic Director Richard Hynson conducted and sipped tea with his six-person orchestra. All of these artists are more than capable. Their collaboration last season in Astor Piazzola's Maria De Buenos Aires was a triumph. It seemed a coup to have the Milwaukee Theatre for their second collaborative offering. All the greater my disappointment.
If we can't make out the words, the chance of understanding Sitwell's intention is eliminated. The word "façade" implies that there is something behind the mask, even if the surface is the focus.
The acoustics were kind enough to Walton's music, a jaunty trifle. I have great respect for Dani Kuepper's artistry, but her straightforward choreography only underlined the score's outdated preciousness. Or perhaps it's simply not my cup of tea. We witnessed privileged English people frolic on a beach in summer costumes from the 1920s.
The younger folk enjoyed badminton, croquet and a game of catch with beach balls, while the older people basked in beach chairs, sipped drinks and read books. Perhaps the size of the performance space demanded lots of people moving constantly, but nothing was of consequence. Several dancers were partly individualized by dint of gender or race. Otherwise, in identical beachwear and performing similar movements, they seemed interchangeable. The exception was Kim Johnson-Rockafellow wearing a white hoop skirt—suggesting a debutante—dancing a brief solo with pride and wistful sadness.