In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

Luz San Miguel and David Hovhannisyan are the two longest tenured leading artists at Milwaukee Ballet. (PHOTO: Mark Frohna)

Meet the leading artists who are powers at Pink's Milwaukee Ballet company

There is a hierarchy in many businesses where the top level are bosses, and the rest of the people are workers.

Then you have the hierarchy in the world of sports when you have the superstars and the rest of the players who operate as a supporting cast.

And then there is the ballet, specifically the Milwaukee Ballet, where the hierarchy is headed by leading artists. The path to leading artist can take a number of years before artistic director Michael Pink decides a dancer is worthy of the promotion and designation.

The ballet has eight leading artists, each of whom has different strengths.

"This is one of the most talented ensembles I've worked with during my tenure at Milwaukee Ballet," Pink said. "They are all individually gifted, yet they perform as one on stage. They're also incredibly brave. Each time we start a new scene in the rehearsal studio, they're 100 percent engaged and ready to go wherever the journey takes us."

These are capsule descriptions in order of the length each has been with the company. They all are reasons that the company Pink is building has such extraordinary strengths.

At the end of each description is a quote from Pink about each of the artists.

Luz San Miguel (12th season)

Last year, Luz San Miguel was appointed ballet mistress, a position that calls on her to direct, train and sometimes even choreograph dancers. But San Miguel will continue to dance as she shares her energies with her new position.

Born in Spain, San Miguel has danced all over the world. She's very versatile, having danced both Odile and Odette in "Swan Lake" and Tinker Bell in "Peter Pan." Her performance as the Matador Lady in "Don Quixote" showed her at her best, a fierce and fiery dancer who tells a story with her every move. You have to wonder how many years she has left as a dancer, but all dance fans hope the answer is "many."

"She's brilliant, and a consummate professional. Luz is an artist who can break your heart and amaze you with her virtuosity. She's also wonderful in her new role as Ballet Master. It is challenging to serve both roles, but she is finding the balance of respect as artist and coach."

Davit Hovhannisyan (12th season)

The native of Armenia started dancing when he was just 6 years old and was accepted into the National Ballet School of Armenia at 10 on full scholarship. He has danced many principal roles in Pink's ballets, including Romeo and Basilio on "Don Quixote."

Perhaps the best I've ever seen him was in the title role in "Dracula," in what was certainly a performance for the ages. He has mastered the art of the sinister seduction, drawing the unsuspecting into his lair. Hovhannisyan both partners and dances alone as if there are wings on his feet and sinew in his muscles. He is that rare male dancer who combines equal parts grace, speed and power. He is cut out for the handsome and romantic male lead.

"Davit is everything you'd want in a leading man. He's an exquisite dancer, he's charismatic, he's dedicated, and he's a wonderful role model for the younger dancers in the company and the students of our school and academy."

Nicole Teague-Howell (ninth season)

Teague-Howell started dancing at eight when her parents opened up a ballet school. Originally from San Diego, she has risen steadily since she joined the Nancy Einhorn Milwaukee Ballet II Program. She graduated to the big company in 2008.

Teague-Howell is a sprite who is dainty and strong at the same time. She has danced as Juliet ("Romeo and Juliet"), both Marie and Clara ("The Nutcracker"), and as Snow White in the world premiere of Pink's "Mirror Mirror," which Pink created with her in mind and which will be restaged this season. She is always a crowd favorite and seems to have the gift of making all the other dancers on stage look better – kind of like how Meryl Streep makes all the other actors act better in a movie.

"Nicole is truly a testament to the training grounds we have here. She came in through the Nancy Einhorn Milwaukee Ballet II Program and made her way up through the ranks of the company to leading artist. In addition to be a beautiful dancer and a wonderful presence in the studios, it's nice to have someone in the company to remind everyone that it's possible to rise up through a company with hard work."

Patrick Howell (sixth season)

Howell, who married Teague last summer, is one of the most liked dancers in the company. He spent three years at the Northern Ballet in the United Kingdom (where Pink used to be associate artistic director), and after joining the Milwaukee company in 2008, he took a three-year break to dance with Germany's Theatre Augsburg. He came back to Milwaukee in 2011. While in Germany, he was joined by Pink in the creation of "Dorian Gray," in which he danced the title role and reprised it in Milwaukee this past season. Here's a quote from my review: "Howell danced Dorian on opening night gave us a character with the callowness of youth and the sophisticated experience of the voluptuous sensualist. He is delicate when needed and slovenly and misdirected when he has to be. It's the best performance I've ever seen him give."

"Patrick is a powerful presence both on and off stage. His commitment and support of myself and his fellow artists is an inspiration. He is passionate about his work and likes to remind everyone that it should also be fun, and everyone loves him for it. "

Annia Hidalgo (sixth season)

Hidalgo is Cuban born and has grown steadily in her six years. She is a powerful dancer, lithe and agile. The first time I saw her in rehearsal, I thought she moved like a panther. In Milwaukee, she has danced Odile and title roles in both "Cinderella" and "Giselle." She has been described as a "blistering storm on the stage," and Pink once kissed her on the forehead after a rehearsal effort over and over for a difficult lift. "You are fierce," he said.

"It's no wonder that Annia is such a force on the stage. She really puts in the hard work in the studios, and gives it her all in her performances. She's always eager to learn how to make herself better, and that's a fabulous quality to have in a dancer."

Timothy O'Donnell (fourth season)

O'Donnell came to Pink's attention when he entered and won the prestigious Genesis choreographer competition in 2009 with his "The Games We Play." He has also appeared as a choreographer for "So You Think You Can Dance" (Australia). He is growing into a very accomplished choreographer, having staged several world premieres in Milwaukee. Known for his graceful presence on stage, he has appeared as Marcello in "La Bohème" and Verdigris (the green stepsister) in "Cinderella."

"Tim made his mark on this company the moment he arrived for the Genesis competition in 2009. I knew he had a rare gift, and I was thrilled when he asked to join our company. He has one of the most creative minds I've encountered, and his passion shines through when he dances."

Marize Fumero (third season)

Another member of the Cuban corps in Milwaukee, Fumero has a fiery passion on the stage. She left Havana in 2012 to join the English National Ballet and joined Milwaukee two years later. She has danced roles as varied as Marie and the Snow Queen in "The Nutcracker." She delivered a mesmerizing performance in the title role in "Scheherazade" last season. From my review: "Marize Fumero delivered an eye-opening performance as a sexy and sultry Scheherazade. From her first moments on the stage, she was such a vision that it was impossible to look elsewhere. (Choreographer Kathryn) Posin has cast her lead ballerina as a siren whose beauty and skill can make strong men weak. Fumero was up to the task and then some. She moved her body in impossible ways, and she and her sheikh (Hovhannisyan) danced beautifully together."

"I've always known Marize was special, and as I've seen her grow and watched her shine in 'Scheherazade' earlier this season, I knew she was ready for the promotion. She's living up to her new role marvelously."

Jonathan Batista (first season)

The Brazilian-born Batista attended the English National Ballet School until he graduated in 2011 and then joined the Miami City Ballet under the direction of one of ballet's biggest names, Edward Villela. He is well-traveled, having moved from Miami to Canada to Boston to Cincinnati before joining Milwaukee as a leading artist this season. He teamed with Lahna Vanderbush to deliver a blistering Spanish pas de deux on opening night of "The Nutcracker" this season.

"Jonathan is a new addition to the company this season. We look forward to discovering his talent throughout this exciting season."


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