Danceworks makes Milwaukee move
Milwaukee performing arts company Danceworks turns its annual summer series into an experimental lab this year. In addition to the usual multiplicity of events and classes, the DanceLAB Series emerges as a cultural combination of dance and visual / audio arts and holds four performances this summer.
DanceLAB focuses on establishing a venue to showcase new artists, and presentations are meant to enhance the audience's perspective on dance and to encourage viewers to perceive dance as a traditional yet evolutionary form of art.
"There's great potential to draw new audiences through cross-marketing of different arts disciplines -- audiences that may not otherwise be attracted to dance, or vice versa," says Danceworks director Deborah Farris. "We expand arts knowledge across the city."
This weekend, DanceLAB presents the second of four performances. The Rebecca Stenn Company makes its Milwaukee debut with a show combining athletic dance forms to the backdrop of rock, jazz and classical music. The performance, "Blue Print," introduces an original score staged by five dancers and three musicians.
"The DanceLAB grew out of an annual series where we produced concerts during the summer months to build awareness during a time when there was not a lot of dance activity, and to deepen our ties to the community," Farris explains. "We connected to a richer diversity in our performance venue by incorporating such artists as a Latino dance company, Indian dance, and hip hop in the past."
All Dancelab Series performances, including the Rebecca Stenn Company, offer masters classes, open rehearsals and meet-the-artist receptions for the public.
This summer's last two DanceLAB performances include "Art to Art," a performance connecting choreographers with various artists including a quilter, folk artist, visual artist, several musicians, media artist and poet, and "Causing Effect," a performance highlighting choreographers from previous DanceLAB performances.
"We feel that a collaboration is important because it broadens the audience and also allows choreographers to approach their work in new ways," Farris says.
The DanceLAB Series is the newest artistic assertion at Danceworks, but it certainly isn't the only one this summer.
Danceworks goes Italian this weekend as it brings its Mad Hot Ballroom / Tap (MHBT) program to the Summerfest grounds for Festa Italiana. The Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap Competition takes place for the second year and welcomes all children who participated in the Mad Hot Ballroom school program.
"We doubled our participation at Festa from last year to this year," says Farris. "It's a wonderful new partnership for us, and we are grateful to Tony Machi and Festa."
Modeled after the 2005 Mad Hot Ballroom documentary, Danceworks conducts a year-round dance program to provide arts for area schools where cutbacks have largely left students with little or no art education.
"What we've heard from teachers and parents is that they've seen an improvement in their students' attendance, grades, and behavior as a result of MHBT," Farris says.
"Offering MHBT during the school day is deepening and enriching the classroom experience. It's also strengthening relationships between students and between students and teachers."
The MHBT program began in 2006 with three schools. In the 2007-'08 school year, over 2,300 young people participated from 42 schools. The program lasts 12 weeks and provides classrooms with a total of 24 hours of dance instruction. Farris says it aids children in developing artistic, academic and social skills.
In addition to summer performances and festival appearances, Danceworks offers children's camps for nearly every age, nearly every week throughout the late summer.
"We believe strongly in creating creative arts experiences that expose children to multi-arts," says Farris. "The camps include visual arts components as well as creative writing, music, creative drama...and of course dance."
The camps incorporate fantastical, organic themes of Commotion in the Ocean, Radical Rainforest and Jurassic Art on the center's park grounds. All camps mix dance and visual arts with music, drama and creative writing, giving children the opportunity for expression through various media forms.
I love Danceworks! It is great for beginners and better than just 'working out'!!
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