For our 2021/22 Season of Inspiration, three dancers representing our Company, Community Engagement, and School & Academy reflect on how they draw inspiration from the people who support them and those they encourage through dance.  

The following stories are heartfelt reminders of who we are and what we do. 

Our artists are world-class performers who bring joy to those who watch our classical and contemporary ballets. Our School & Academy graduates and promotes ambitious stand-out talents. Many of our dancers lend their talents and time to our Community Engagement efforts, including with our Tour de Force program, which works with young members of the Milwaukee community to help raise their confidence in movement through adaptive ballet. 

Thank you for keeping us inspired through your support, so we can continue to inspire others! 

Inspiration On and Off Stage

Company Leading Artist Marize Fumero has embraced the full gamut of principal roles, from Lucy in Dracula to her favorite, Claudia, the villainous Stepmother in Mirror Mirror. Marize has said that she loves being evil on stage, an admission that is ironic for one who is inspired by her newborn son and extended family.

Originally from Havana, Cuba, Marize has done her best to stay tied to family. She left her position as a dancer for the English National Ballet in 2014 to feel closer to relatives living “across the pond.” Several years ago, Marize surprised her mother when she danced at the International Ballet Festival in Cuba. “After I went abroad, my family never got to see me perform in person again. When my mom saw me onstage, she screamed and I heard her. It was the best experience in the ten years of my career!”

Marize has always made sacrifices for her art. At age nine, she left home to study ballet. It was the compromise for gymnastics, which would have required her to leave home at age five. Since then, she has enjoyed unbridled cheers and heaps of flowers from adoring fans.

This fall, following almost two years away from the stage due to the pandemic and maternity leave, Marize triumphantly returned stronger than ever and more artistically inspired by motherhood, performing in a sultry jazz trio and an energetic pas de deux for Connect.

Coming back to the big stage is a gift she does not take for granted. “I am really grateful for the people who support us dancers. I thank you from the bottom of my heart!”

Connect (with Randy Crespo & Garrett Glassman) | Photos: Rachel Malehorn. Septime Webre’s ALICE (in wonderland) | Photo: Nathaniel Davauer. The Nutcracker (with Davit Hovhannisyan) | Photo: Mark Frohna.

Inspiring the Future of Dance

Taking up the mantle of a Milwaukee Ballet II (MBII) dancer this fall did not intimidate 16-year-old Sage Simons. His hard work and training are paying off and continue his family’s legacy with Milwaukee Ballet’s second company. His mom Stephanie, Aunt Katrina, and Uncle Tristan Alberda were all MBII dancers and paved the way.  

Sage began Irish dancing at age three before adding ballet to his repertoire and enrolling in Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy. He is now accomplished in both. Sage competed in the World Championships of Irish Dance in Glasgow, Scotland. He also placed second in Classical Ballet at the Kansas City Semi-Finals of the Youth America Grand Prix. He is grateful for the mentorship of Company Leading Artist Parker Brasser-Vos, who has taught classes in the Boys’ Division for years and whom Sage has supported as teacher’s assistant. 

Irish dancing does not offer young adults a company experience like ballet does, Sage explained. “My mom thought Milwaukee Ballet would be a great outlet because the School & Academy offer different dance styles, so students can become versatile.” 

Sage joined the school and academy’s Pre-Professional Program, cementing his commitment to pursuing a career in dance. Being surrounded by peers who spend full days every day in the dance studio suited him. “It’s been inspiring to work with all my classmates, who grow and improve along with me.”

When the pandemic first closed the school, his mom substituted as ballet teacher at home. He remained focused. Along with completing the Pre-Professional Program last year, he also participated in MBSA’s Summer Intensive, as well as those at Ellison Ballet, Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, and A&A Ballet.

This fall Sage has taken the next big step in joining the MBII program, taking on intense mental and physical training, and the newer challenge of partnering. Sage hopes to work his way into a Company, preferably right here in Milwaukee. “Milwaukee Ballet has always had a great sense of community. The teachers really worked and connected with me on a deeper level.” 

His gratitude for supporters who have helped to keep Milwaukee Ballet’s doors open and ensure the dancers’ return to the main stage is genuine: “I don’t think we would have been able to do all that without our donors. It’s great to be back!” 

MBII Rehearsal | Photo: Rachel Malehorn. MBSA Class | Photo: Jenn Mazza. MBSA Pre-Professional Program, Paquita | Photo: Nathaniel Davauer.

Inspiration in the Community

Milwaukee Ballet partners with Children’s Wisconsin to offer adaptive ballet classes to children and youth with varying physical, cognitive or behavioral disabilities through the Tour de Force program. Together, our dancers, instructors, and the Children’s Wisconsin physical and occupational therapy staff help students participate in dance and celebrate themselves through movement.

Company Artist Itzel Hernandez is the lead teacher for the Glissade division within Tour de Force, a specialized ballet class for students who use wheelchairs. She draws great inspiration from her students and her role as an instructor, using  dance to help others while fostering special friendships.

“My goal is to have the world treat these kids as normal people because that’s what they are. I hold them to the same standards I hold other students I teach. Resiliency is the most inspiring lesson I have learned from them.”

Early in the pandemic, when she offered classes via Zoom, she was impressed by her Glissade dancers’ determination despite the challenge of executing moves from home in wheelchairs. “They’d ask their parents to take them to their backyard or porch, where they had more space,” she said. “As a professional dancer, I was going through the same thing, taking class from my attic or garage space. They were so grateful and hopeful. Inasmuch as I’ve inspired them, they’ve done the same for me.”

Itzel deeply appreciates the generous gifts that make Tour de Force and Glissade possible. “These programs empower, nurture, and change lives. The kids become not only physically stronger but also more confident about who they are and why they’re here in this big, wide world.”

Glissade Class with Itzel Hernandez | Photos: Rachel Malehorn. Itzel Hernandez with students, Bradford Beach | Photo: Timothy O’Donnell.

Discover More

Community Engagement

Dance is a powerful tool. Our education and outreach programs inspire confidence, creativity, and health throughout the Greater Milwaukee community, reaching more than 30,000 people annually.

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School & Academy

Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy provides an encouraging environment where all ages are invited to find and refine their artistry.

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Our Dancers

Twenty-three professional dancers make up our Company. Coming from eight countries, these dancers have chosen to bring their unique talents to this city and now call Milwaukee home.

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Donate Today

Supporters of Milwaukee Ballet deserve a standing ovation for their lasting impact on both the company and our community.

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