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"Scheherazade" will arrive in Milwaukee for the Ballet's next season. (PHOTO: Tom Davenport)

Milwaukee Ballet's 2016-17 season mixes classics and new compositions

For almost a half a century, the Milwaukee Ballet Company has entertained audiences in seasons both up and down as it struggled to find a niche in the Milwaukee performing arts panorama.

Since the arrival of Artistic Director Michael Pink almost 15 years ago, however, the ballet has been on a consistent upward arch, improving the quality of the company, establishing a base with a live orchestra and performing and developing ballets that have gained worldwide recognition.

The announcement of the 2016-17 season is a bit like a microcosm of Pink's tenure, featuring some of the classics, some of the new and some of the stories for which the company has become so well known under Pink.

The season will open with a double-bill featuring a revival of the blistering "Scheherazade," which was commissioned by Milwaukee philanthropist Katie Heil and received its world premiere in 2002-03.

Designed by Kathryn Posin, the ballet is based on the book "One Thousand and One Nights" (more famously known in English as "Arabian Nights") and features the music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The enchanting costume designs of Judanna Lynn will keep the focus of the audience on the special and erotic dancing.

The ballet with be paired with "Angels in Architecture," a piece by Mark Godden based on the American religious Shaker sect. The ballet comes from the Northern Ballet in England where Pink cut his teeth on telling a story with ballet he that has developed to to his signature art.

Next on tap will be the famously successful "The Nutcracker," which is as much a holiday tradition in Milwaukee as is "A Christmas Carol" at the Rep.

The excitement of "Genesis" returns next, the always interesting competition among up-and coming choreographers. The three finalists in the competition create new work for Milwaukee Ballet's dancers and vie for votes from the judges and the audience.

Spring will bring a bit of the old with the new when it presents "La Sylphide," a new rendition of one of the world's oldest ballets alongside a new ballet fromTimothy O'Donnell, the ballet's choreographer in residence. His ballet will be set to a score by the exciting composer Joan Tower for this double bill.

The season will wrap with a revival of "Mirror Mirror," Pink's creation that had its world premiere back in 2014. Pink spent 15 years thinking about and choreographing the retelling of the story of Snow White before its debut that year.

The ballet performed to generally very positive reviews, and I recall the ovation at the end of opening night was as full of emotion as most others I've seen. It was obvious that people loved it, especially the debut as a principal for the lovely Nicole Teague. There has been widespread speculation that the presence of Teague in the company got Pink over the hump with this particular ballet and that he choreographed it with her in mind.

The ballet is full of emotion and a clarity of story rare in the world of ballet. It's a fitting culmination to a season of performance that is likely to continue the growth and recognition of this company.

Pink calls the season "rich in style and sophistication," and that possibility exists, in part, because the Milwaukee ballet audience has grown in sophistication to where it can fall in love with the Pink approach to ballet.

Wild Space and MOT

One more dance event to put on your calendar should be the Wild Space Dance Company's "Wild Uproar Benefit" on March 22 at Anodyne Coffee. It will be an evening of song and dance in support of the May collaboration between the dance company and Jill Anna Ponasik's always dangerous Milwaukee Opera Theatre. The two will stage "Song from the Uproar," a contemporary opera based on the life of Isabelle Eberhardt, a Swiss nomad, explorer and writer at the turn of the 20th century.

Milwaukee Ballet ticket information can be found here, and Wild Space information can be found here.


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