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A Decade of Dance: Michael Pink Celebrates 10 Years in Milwaukee

Michael PinkMilwaukee Ballet Board Member Donna Baumgartner, Michael Pink and UWM Dance Department Chair Simone Ferro.
Reflections Photography.

The 2012-13 season marks Artistic Director Michael Pink’s 10th Anniversary with Milwaukee Ballet, making him the longest serving director in the Company’s history! Mr. Pink has broken box office records with his interpretations of Romeo & Juliet, Dracula and Peter Pan, and attracted international talent to the city. Two of his works (Romeo & Juliet, Peter Pan) have been immortalized on film by Milwaukee Public Television. Under his leadership, the Company was featured in a documentary, Gonzo Ballet, which captured the creation and world premiere of Margo Sappington’s Common People and includes appearances from co-creators William Shatner and Ben Folds.

Michael Pink has made his commitment to new work clear through his support of pieces like Common People and projects such as Genesis, Milwaukee Ballet’s biennial international choreographic competition.

Pink also keenly focuses on collaboration, and his effect can be felt all around the city. This season alone he is working with Milwaukee Repertory Theater (Assassins), First Stage, Milwaukee Youth Arts Center and Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (Peter and the Wolf), as well as Present Music and UWM Dance Department (FALL(ing)).

However, Pink is best known as a master storyteller. What more fitting way for him to celebrate his milestone than La Bohemeby creating a new full length ballet La Bohème. Puccini’s famous opera premiered in Turin in 1896, and this will one of the few times in over 100 years that it will be presented as a full length ballet. Milwaukee Ballet Music Director Andrews Sill arranged the familiar score for dance. The skill, notes Pink, will be to arrange the music in a way that replaces the voices. It’s natural for the ear to listen for the voices, but Pink is confident that Sill’s arrangement will leave the audience fulfilled.

In addition to Puccini’s lush score, Michael Pink was attracted to the characters at the heart of La Bohème. Much like Romeo & Juliet, he says, the story possesses larger-than-life characters. Working with a smaller cast will aid in creating these characters, Pink notes. Many times with major productions, he says, the scenes will be filled with set pieces and corps dancers. Having fewer dancers in the studio allows him to delve into the story of Mimi and Rodolfo, and their friends in Paris.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Pink’s production is his desire transport the tale to 1950s Paris. This time period is perfectly captured by the stylish costume designs of Paul Daigle (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Wonder Wild). Daigle’s sketches have been drawing a great deal of attention, even catching the eye of Harley’s, The Store for Men in Shorewood, who is sponsoring Rodolfo’s attire. Daigle is joined by Emmy Award winning Lighting Designer David Grill and Set Designer Richard Graham, who join forces again after working together on Peter Pan. The entire production is being created by the masterful artists in Milwaukee Ballet’s Costume and Scenic Shops. After premiering in Milwaukee, the show will be available to be performed all around the country, and the world.

La Bohème runs October 18-21 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. What’s next for Pink after Paris? There are countless stories to tell. Milwaukee will have to wait and see!

To Nita, With Love
Nita Soref
Michael Pink’s world premiere of La Bohème is special for reasons that extend beyond the stage. The show will be presented in honor of one the Ballet’s board members, philanthropists and an all-around special friend: Nita Soref. Nita’s love for the opera, ballet and the visual and performing arts in Milwaukee makes this new work a fitting tribute for a woman who has committed herself to the city in which she has spent most of her life.

“She has always had a deep respect and dedication to Milwaukee...and believes you should give your money  where you live,” says daughter, Ellen Soren, one of the major contributors to this work in Nita’s honor, along with her brother Douglas, daughter Meredith and many more family and friends.

She continues, “She ALWAYS gives from her heart and she always honors her true beliefs. Whether the gift is $10 or a million dollars...each pledge has or had equal importance AND SIGNIFICANCE TO HER. She believed she was one of the fortunate ones....thus in turn...she would try and gave back to help those who were not as fortunate. It was never about her.....always about what would help or make the difference for others.”

Family friend Peter Mahler notes, "Nita's giving has been broad and deep throughout Milwaukee. Nita chose to focus her giving in the city that helped the Soref Family prosper. Nita gives in a low-key, humble manner, solely for the purpose of helping others."

Milwaukee Ballet has valued Nita Soref’s friendship and support, and was pleased to see her family and friends come together to present La Bohème in her honor.

Former Milwaukee Ballet Board Chair, and close friend, Mary Taibl notes, “Nita is a work of art. She has given so much of herself, her creativity and her resources to this community. She truly personifies what it means to live in a community and support it.  Nothing short of a beautiful work of art, like Michael Pink's La Bohème, could even begin to reflect her spirit.”

Company Manager Douglas McCubbin had the pleasure of meeting Nita when she became his sponsor during his years as a Company dancer. “Ever since I joined Milwaukee Ballet I have always been surprised at how well our supporters here take care of us. Nita Soref is a shining example,” he says.

“Knowing and loving Nita as I do, I’m guessing she’s very uncomfortable with all of this attention. Nita dislikes having the spotlight on her, but the truth is, she really deserves this recognition. Her contributions to this community are too numerous to count-the Jewish community, the arts, her family, and many other charities which she supports.  Like my own mother, she gives freely and from a place of love. And love is what this story is all about…” says longtime friend, Katie Heil.

Leslie Rivers
Marketing Associate

(La Bohème rehearsal image: David Hovhannisyan and Luz San Miguel.)