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Cipollino-The Little Onion That Could


Months and months ago, Director of Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy, Rolando Yanes, began talking about “Cipollino.” Everywhere he went, he carried an Italian paperback with him that he painstakingly translated, page by page – from Italian to Spanish and then eventually to English. This story, “The Adventure of the Cipollino” (the little onion) is wellknown in Russia, but for all of our research – not at all in the United States.

In a nutshell (an onion skin?), a village of fruits and vegetables are in the midst of the annual mask celebration, a festival that brings the commoners and the people of the court together. The bossy Princess Lemon announces she will be hosting a private party in the castle and insists that the citizens of the town be quiet during her soirée. Cipolino and his friends do not like this one bit. In Act II, preparations for the party are underway and we meet the Cherry Sisters, girls who are not allowed to play with other people, nor leave the castle. Cipollino and his posse sneak into the castle and invite the Cherry Sisters to play – narrowly escaping Princess Lemon again. During the party, Magnolia’s perfume casts a spell that puts everyone to sleep. Once awakened, the town will be different, everyone will become friends and be able to play together.

Right on the heels of “Swan Lake” and our Milwaukee Ballet II’s Graduation Celebration, we are mounting a brand new production featuring 600 students in total, between River Point, Towne Centre and the Jodi Peck Center. Included in the cast are four of our Academy girls who just had the good fortune of being in the corps of “Swan Lake”, Ahna Lipchik, Lizzie Tripp, and Alaina and Kessia Anderson. When I spoke with Lizzie about her experience dancing with the Company, she said it was something she thought wouldn’t happen until she was at least 20 years old! Ahna said it was “the MOST exciting thing ever!” For these girls, ages 13 to 16, training with the Company gave them a new perspective on professionalism and performance standards – something that is helping them in all of their onstage experiences. Two of our MBII boys, Kevin Hamilton and Israel Garcia Chenge, are also in the cast.

Can you imagine how cute these costumes are going to be? Krista Allenstein, our Wardrobe Assistant (who has been in serious training to take over when our dear Mary Belle Potter retires) has created most colorful palette of fruit and vegetable infused costumes. There are eleven levels in the school, each with their own fruit or vegetable (among them radishes and blueberries), as well as the pre-Academy townsfolk, the Academy courtiers and the leads – Princess Lemon, her Lady-in-waiting, Señor and Señora Tomato, the Cherry Sisters and of course, Cipollino. Krista’s first solo project was a huge undertaking. She talked to me about the show yesterday, still sewing on hot pink bows to the raspberry leotards. 

“I think I really showed a preference for the boys’ costumes. You want them to be seen. They have to want to continue dancing and they won’t if they hate what they’re wearing,” says Krista, with her bright eyed grin. One of Krista’s sons is a little onion, part of Cipollino’s crew who wreak havoc in the castle.

Creating original costumes (you can see all of the drawings on Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy’s Facebook page), searching for pieces and parts in our basement treasure trove and going to antique stores has been part of the adventure for Krista. Here’s a fun fact: Señor Tomato is wearing a vintage jacket that was once a doorman’s from the Pfister Hotel!

The dress rehearsals bring hundreds of kids and families to our already crowded headquarters on 5th and National. The studios are full of props and rows of tutus. Studio B is set up with lights and backdrops for class and individual photos. Rolando has been overseeing the painting of the backdrop, while Stage Manager Doug McCubbin makes sure the crew at Whitefish Bay High School is ready to go. You’ll see all the levels of the Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy this weekend onstage and it will be adorable. From swans and superheroes to strawberries, we dance it all here.  Don’t miss our youngest artists this weekend in this original production! Tickets are available at the door!

Alyson Chavez
Director of Community Outreach