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A Little Spring in Our Step: Spring in the Studio this Saturday!

The Nancy Einhorn Milwaukee Ballet II Program and Milwaukee Ballet Academy
Spring in the Studio – March 10, 2012
4:00 p.m. – Jodi Peck Center, Studio A
I really don’t mean to use wordplay when I say that the dancers of Milwaukee Ballet II – past and present – are movers and shakers. Milwaukee Ballet II Program graduates are all over the country dancing, choreographing, practicing medicine, modeling and starting their own businesses. Nine of them are in our own Company*. Five of them are on the faculty of Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy**. As our own program here continues to grow, the dancers who have been a part of it are making their mark on the world – in dance and other fields. In celebration of the growth and momentum of The Nancy Einhorn Milwaukee Ballet II Program, we have decided to create a choreographic opportunity for an MBII alumnus in our spring studio show. In a week, you’ll be able to see the first submission of work in this endeavor – and it is a gut-wrenching good one.

One of the best things about the artistic atmosphere of Milwaukee Ballet is the advocacy and promotion of young choreographers. From our Genesis: International Choreographic Competition, to multiple opportunities for our own dancers to create work on school students, MBIIs and upon their peers in the Company’s Behind the Curtain benefit show and in all of our studio shows (Assemblé, Spring in the Studio and the Graduation Celebration), Michael Pink celebrates the burgeoning artist at all levels. Michael himself found his choreographic voice at a very young age when he entered three pieces into a choreographic competition (“obnoxious,” says Michael – I say ambitious!) and won first place! Michael was the first winner in what is now the Ursula Morton Choreographic Competition, a prestigious student competition at The Royal Ballet School. Deemed the winner by Sir Frederick Ashton himself (an English treasure, resident choreographer of the Vic-Wells Ballet, which became The Royal Ballet), Michael was taken under his wing and put on a path that would ultimately lead him to his major works: Dracula, Romeo & Juliet, Esmeralda and Peter Pan!

Michael’s memories of his first prize submission were rekindled just recently when he found the music he used on an old reel-to-reel tape. Entitled Inversion, he remembers the piece being very trendy, costumed in “flares” (bellbottoms) and t-shirts with music played on a Moog synthesizer. After winning, he was channeled into a hands-on life-learning program of going to art galleries, seeing other dance forms, meeting retired dancers from the original Ballet Russes and attending as many shows as possible – all with the intention of feeding his head and heart with the fuel that would fire his creative spirit.

It is no surprise then, that Milwaukee Ballet is a place that champions the imaginative whimsy of our youngest creators. (We have all watched our own Petr Zahradnícek become an accomplished choreographer with his numerous works in our mixed rep shows over the years.) When it was decided that we would add this element to our spring MBII show, all of us here were excited to invite Brent Whitney, MBII graduate and former Company member, to be our first guest. Brent spent ten days in late January with the MBIIs creating a work called Darkest Before set to music by Nils Frahm. Utilizing eight of the dancers, he crafted a piece that is incredibly emotional and challenging for the dancers. In an effort to make this as much of a professional learning experience for the dancers as for the choreographer, we gave Brent the chance to watch class and cast the piece himself, work with the wardrobe department to choose appropriate costumes and of course, enough studio time to create a complete piece. I can tell you from hearing the feedback from the dancers and from watching a run-through on Brent’s last day – this was a fantastic way to pilot our MBII Alumni project. As many visiting choreographers do, Brent not only found dancers who could really express his deepest emotions, but he drew things out of them we haven’t necessarily seen them do before. Parker Brasser-Vos, who dances the lead in this piece, will take you on a stirring 13 minute journey. On our ride to the airport, Brent said, and while I’m paraphrasing, that he felt like he’d really stepped into the realm of being a choreographer and that this experience gave him the fulfillment he was searching for as he continues his own voyage from dancer to choreographer.

In addition to Brent’s new work, you will see new pieces by some of our closest cohorts. MBII Thom Dancy will present his full work, The Inconvenience of Inevitability, a work he started last year with a beautiful pas de deux that he performed with Bea Castañeda. In addition to our hard-working, ever-blossoming Milwaukee Ballet II dancers, you’ll also see the graduating seniors of the Milwaukee Ballet Academy in a new piece choreographed by Company dancer Isaac Sharratt. We’ve renamed this show Spring in the Studio (formerly Classical to Contemporary) but we have retained the combination of classical and contemporary repertoire. In honor of the coming season you’ll see August Bournonville’s Flower Festival and Genesis winner Mauro de Candia’s delightfully cheeky Something I Had in Mind.

Tickets are $15 for people 12 and up and $5 for kids under 12. RSVP to Alyson Chavez at (414) 902-2120 or achavez [at] milwaukeeballet [dot] org (e-mail).

*Susan Gartell, Justin Genna, Valerie Harmon, Courtney Kramer, Rachel Malehorn, Barry Molina, Isaac Sharratt, Nicole Teague and Raven Wales.

**Megan Baker, Jennifer Miller, Kristin Herlache, Karisa Skiba and Victoria Zures.