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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Vibrant and Joyful

Dance Review

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The Milwaukee Ballet brought its season to an exuberant end with a finale that showcased the depth and breadth of the talent in this company, ranging from the classical to the modern, surefooted every step of the way.

  For sheer visual fun, Antony Tudor's take on the Moulin Rouge, "Offenbach in the Underworld" literally provided a glimpse of the "under" world of the can-can dancers (along with their frilly undergarments) as the different social classes meet up in an 1870s café, rife with jealousy, flirtations and ensuing brawls. Drawing upon the music of Jacques Offenbach, Tudor summons up the pomp of circumstance of the different styles of music to great effect. And clearly the Milwaukee Ballet cast was enjoying itself as much as the audience, the dancing vibrant and joyful, be it a waltz or the (in)famous high style kicking of the can-can.  The female dancers effortlessly balanced one leg on the shoulders of their admiring male consorts, drawing them in, not for love but for the love of money. These are after all working girls. What a romp!

  The cast balanced the sheer physicality of that finale against the evening's opening number of serenity and grace: "The Kingdom of the Shades," an excerpt from La Bayadere, taken from Indian classics.  Notable in the choreography by Marius Petipa is the focus on pointe dancing throughout, set against a backdrop of ancient India where a temple dancer (a bayadere) fights to keep the love of her gallant warrior, now betrothed to another. Cast changes saw the major roles of Nikiya and Solor danced by Diana Stetsura and David Hovhannisyan, respectively.  The two danced as one, Stetsura's petite frame lithe and fluid against the commanding presence of Hovhannisyan's warrior
moves. These in turn were noble, majestic and full of power in his leaps. The Corps de Ballet's pointe dancing brimmed with precision and tranquility, contributing to the ethereal mood of the piece.

  Artistic Director Michael Pink had the world premiere of his work "Aubade" as the middle piece, set to the music of Francis Poulenc. Fraught with the promise—and uncertainty—of a new day dawning, seven men and three women come together, part, and regroup as the sun's fiery mix of color breaks through the gray streaks and mist (kudos to lighting designer Nicholas Phillips).  They bound up and down a ramp, looking off, waiting and watching. And as the men finally leave as the sunlight reigns, the women—and the audience—are left to ponder what the new day will bring.

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