Simone Ferro’s Dance Without Boundaries
Ferro has worked in radically different styles on three continents in her career as a dancer and choreographer. As a child in Sao Paulo, Brazil, she received strict ballet training. At Sao Paulo University, she found herself in a department committed to postmodernism and the avant-garde. She excelled, but returned to ballet, dancing major roles in Rio de Janeiro until she realized her height would keep her from going further there. She gathered the courage to move to Europe and start from the bottom.
Alias, an avant-garde dance theater, began in Geneva, Switzerland, when Ferro was working in the city as an independent choreographer and dancer, and she joined. Highly physical and theatrical, with 10 dancers and 4 tons of scenery, Alias garnered government subsidies and widespread acclaim in Europe. Later, the group needed a manager and turned to Ferro, who had acquired administrative skills. This meant less dancing, which eventually drove her to take a new risk. At age 32, needing help with English, she applied for and won a fellowship to the M.F.A. Dance Program of the University of Iowa. Upon graduating in 2001, she had three job offers, one from UW-Milwaukee. Since “there was so much more to learn about dance in the USA” and “to learn about a place you have to root yourself,” she joined UWM’s dance faculty. Now she’s also researching the roots of Brazilian popular dance with UWM’s Meredith Watts, her husband.
It’s no wonder she works without stylistic boundaries and asks dancers to surpass their limits. This concert will open with a duet for herself and violin virtuoso Bernard Zinck. He’ll play, she’ll dance; the audience will be surprised by the relationship. Next, a demanding duet based on her Brazilian research will be danced by recent UWM graduates. A quiet solo for her friend and former student, Mary Madsen, follows. Ferro says of her: “This is dancing for something beyond self.” Then a dramatic duet for two of Ferro’s current students, set to Brazilian music, with the woman in point shoes, will challenge gravity and the trust between the dancers.
The climax, Snapshots, for eight dancers from the Danceworks Performance Company, is a response to the Milwaukee Art Museum’s upcoming photographyexhibit, Street Seen: The Psychological Gesture in American Photography, 1940-1959. The photos, mostly taken impromptu, sometimes through snow or fogged windows, are filled with unexpected and unedited images. “A lot will pass by you in this dance,” Ferro says. “If you catch it all, good!” Danceworks will reprise it at MAM in February.