Third International Competition Highlights Ballet’s Commitment to New Work

Three up-and-coming choreographers vie for the top spot at Milwaukee Ballet’s Genesis

MILWAUKEE – March 3, 2009 – As he sits in his office and opens the next DVD, Milwaukee Ballet Artistic Director Michael Pink wonders what’s in store for him when he pushes play: Will it be silly, classical or something truly contemporary?

For Pink, holding an international choreographic competition is vital to his profession. “This is the life-blood of dance,” he says. “It’s important to generate new work. It’s interesting and cost-effective. All of the choreographers are winners just by participating.”

Next month, three choreographers will get a unique opportunity to showcase their work during Milwaukee Ballet’s third international choreographic competition, Genesis: International Choreographic Competition, March 26-29. Held every other year, the competition demonstrates Milwaukee Ballet’s continued commitment to generating new and innovative works. While ballets internationally often follow the same model, Milwaukee Ballet is one of few companies in this country hosting a truly international competition.

The Process
Milwaukee will be among the first to witness the evolving new talent in international ballet production. Genesis will include three Milwaukee premieres choreographed by finalists Maurice Causey, Cameron McMillan and Timothy O’Donnell. The winner receives $3,000 and is offered the chance to create an original piece for Milwaukee Ballet the following season. Second place receives $2,000; third place receives $1,000; and the audience favorite receives $500.

The three choreographers are handpicked by Artistic Director Michael Pink, who watches and critiques over 30 submissions from across the globe. This year, Pink received entries from Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, United States and Vietnam.

“I look for musicality and creativity in the steps; the original way in which the choreographer brings together music and dance,” Pink said.

Pink also invites a panel of renowned judges to select the winner. This year’s panel includes André Lewis, artistic director of Royal Winnipeg Ballet; Gil Boggs, artistic director of Colorado Ballet; Katherine C. Kersten, founder and artistic director of The American Ballet Competition; and John McFall, artistic director of Atlanta Ballet.

Each choreographer is given a dance team of eight performers to create a 20-minute work. The dancers and choreographer will then have three weeks, a total of 90 rehearsal hours, to make their piece ready for the panel of judges and the audience.

As in year’s past, this year’s competition takes place at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater, providing audiences with a rare opportunity to get an up close experience with the Ballet’s dancers. In the ornate Baroque and Renaissance style of this intimate auditorium, audiences will discover the athleticism, strength and versatility of the dancers—every muscle and bead of sweat is distinguishable. The show’s choreography pushes the boundaries of dance from ballet to contemporary, providing an incomparable performance for experienced ballet-goers, and an accessible introduction to ballet for novices. Milwaukee Ballet also runs a voting process, allowing ballet goers to pick an audience favorite by the end of the show’s run.

Genesis: International Choreographic Competition runs March 26-29 at the Pabst Theater, 144 E. Wells Street, Milwaukee. Tickets to the performance begin at $22. To order tickets or for additional information, call (414) 902-2103 or visit  Genesis is sponsored by Briggs & Stratton.

Upcoming Production: Common People

Further highlighting Milwaukee Ballet’s commitment to staging new work is the repeat performance of Margo Sappington’s Common People May 14-17. Set to the vocal musings of William Shatner and music by Ben Folds, Sappington’s quest to create this ballet is also chronicled in “William Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet.” The documentary, featuring the 2007 debut of Common People by Milwaukee Ballet, will have its world premiere at the acclaimed Nashville Film Festival in April.

About Milwaukee Ballet
Founded in 1970, Milwaukee Ballet strives to inspire its audiences to think within and beyond traditional ballet through the presentation of quality performances and the implementation of educational opportunities.  Milwaukee Ballet and Milwaukee Ballet School are recognized among the top companies in the nation.  Milwaukee Ballet School is the only professional dance school in the Midwest accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance. With an annual operating budget of more than $5 million, Milwaukee Ballet presents more than 40 performances to more than 50,000 people each year.  Its resident company includes 25 professional dancers along with 18 trainees in its Nancy Einhorn Milwaukee Ballet II program and is one of the few dance companies in the country to maintain its own symphony orchestra.  Milwaukee Ballet School, the official school of the Ballet, has an enrollment of nearly 900 students at three locations throughout Southeastern Wisconsin.