En Face

Behind the Curtain: By the Dancers, For the Dancers!

Hi Milwaukee Ballet Fans!

I'm blogging from San Francisco, where Annual Campaign and Grants Manager Carolyn Muckelberg and I are attending the National Guild for Community Arts Education's annual conference. With what we learned, pondered and discussed with colleagues on day one in the Arts in Education Partner Institute I can assure you it's been worth it. We spent the day at this pre-conference session with 50 arts educators from around the country discussing the values, practicalities, problems and solutions that make healthy and successful collaboration. With our own programs like Relevé (our inner-city dance program with ALBA, Allen-Field and Dover Elementary Schools) and the new Harmony Initiative, to name a few, collaboration is something we are deeply entrenched in at Milwaukee Ballet. The rest of the week will bring sessions with other dance professionals, a visit to San Francisco Ballet, sessions on Increasing Diversity and Participation, Program Planning Processes, Engaging Adolescents and more. All this with record warm weather and the San Francisco Giants World Series Celebration parade a block down the street from the conference... So exciting! I promise, we are working hard and will be bringing back some fantastic information to share with Milwaukee.

But in this election week I'm happy to be bringing you some democratic news about the ballet - an upcoming show that is By the Dancers, For the Dancers!

On Saturday night the dancers are inviting you Behind the Curtain, to their annual dancer benefit, a show they put on themselves to benefit the dancer fund. This studio show gives the dancers a chance to perform a piece of their choosing - whether it be that pas de deux they've always wanted to do, a variation that shows off how fast they can turn, or an experimental group piece that might never be showcased at the Pabst. If you haven't had the chance to sit in Studio A and watch the dancers take class or rehearse this show will be an eye-opening experience. Sometimes when we see the dancers from afar, boxed in by the proscenium arch, we forget who they are as individuals and how hard they work to achieve their pursuit of perfection. I love having the chance to watch them work up close where I can hear them breathe and see them sweat. The dancer benefit show is a true insider's glimpse into Milwaukee Ballet's Company of talented artists.

In the past, this show has showcased some of our younger dancers doing extremely difficult work that we might not see them doing on the mainstage for a few years; I'm remembering Justin Genna and Jen Grapes' fabulous pas de deux from Le Corsaire for example. Petr ZahradnĂ­cek has gone on to develop longer works out of short pieces he's choreographed for the benefit - last year's Concourse is one. We've been able to see dancers choreograph on themselves and each other - Ryan Martin and Patrick Howell did pieces of their own creation last year. This is something that is always celebrated by Michael Pink, who was encouraged as a young dancer to follow his own choreographic instincts.

This show, in its 5th year, is important because the dancers do all of the legwork themselves - no pun intended! From the marketing to the lighting, the dancers are responsible for making this show happen. Courtney Kramer, who is very involved in the organization of this show, says that doing all of the work gives the dancers a new respect for the staff who do this all season on a much larger scale. But this is also what makes it so special - each year, she says, is dramatically different and this year is full of surprises. The proceeds for Behind the Curtain go to a dancer fund for career transition - something to assist them when their careers on stage have come to an end. So join the cause and come support the dancers. According to Courtney, "It's gonna be good... oh yeah." I can hear in her voice that she's not kidding! And I don't doubt it.

Behind the Curtain is Saturday, November 6th at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $75 each.

Now, I have a cable car to catch!

Alyson Chavez
Director of Education