Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Milwaukee Ballet, Season Finale

The season finale for the Milwaukee Ballet is typically a mixed program, and this year was no exception. What was uniform in the mix was the very high quality and interest factor of all the pieces.

The first act was the "white scene" "The Kingdom of Shades" from La Bayadere, a classic ballet by famous choreographer Marius Petipa, to music by his frequent collaborator, Ludwig Minkus. When first produced, La Bayadere was very ground-breaking, and this scene became the inspiration for similar set pieces in Swan Lake and Les Syphildes.

This scene is virtually a program in itself, and, as Georgie said, includes virtually the complete vocabulary of steps and combinations found in 19th century ballet. It opens with the entrance of the corps to a forest glade, then a pas de trois, featuring, in this performance, Jennifer Grapes, Courtney Kramer, and Susan Gartell. Then, a pas de deux of  Diana Setsura as "Nikiya," the temple dancer and David Hovhannisyan as "Solor" the prince. following that, each principal got brief, but pretty solo turns, and the scene continued with more ensemble bits until the grand finale. 

The second piece, Aubade ("Dawn Serenade"), was a world premier of an orginal ballet by the Company's Artistic Director, Michael Pink, to music by Francis Poulenc. The stage is bare except for a ramped area at the back, which might be a levee, or might be a rampart. In pre-dawn grayness and mist, seven men stand waiting and watching. as the day lightens, three women (the same dancers as the pas de trois above) dressed in shades of spring green enter.  Two pair off, but the others engage in a series of dances of flirtation and competition. Georgie noted that you don't often see pas de deux consisting of two male dancers, which added interest. The piece comes to a contemplative end as the background continues to brighten, the men leave, and the women take up their watching positions on the ramparts.

If Bayadere is about romance, and Aubade about flirtation, Anthony Tudor's 1954 ballet of Orpheus in the Underworld is about desire, lust, and jealousy.  The location is an 1870's Parisian cafe, with a set that wittily refers to Manet's painting, A Bar at the Folies Bergere, complete with the barmaid/landlady played by the Company's Ballet Mistress, Nadia Thompson.  The dance, set to the music of Jacques Offenbach, describes the actions and interactions of an evening's customers, including a painter (Patrick Howell), the landlady's daughter (Jacqueline Moscicke),  a debutante (Tatiana Jouravel) and her friends, a Prince (Douglas McCubbin), an operetta star (Luz San Miguel), and the "Queen of the Carriage Trade," (Jeanette Marie Hanley), plus waiters, and male and female locals.  When the prince enters, all the women throw themselves (sometimes literally) at him, until the operetta diva enters and demands his attention, as well as that of any other reasonably attractive man in the bar.  Troublemaking as she is, it is nothing to when the "Queen" enters, playing off the prince and the officer against one another, initiating a challenge, which devolves into an entertaining barroom brawl.  After the landlady clears the floor, the customers filter back, and things are reasonably calm until the floor is rushed by the band of street women. Heated by drink and excitement, they have cast off jackets and blouses and engage in the rawly sexual  "can-can", which is the climax of the ballet. Worn out, the customers gradually depart, leaving the painter, the landlady, and her daughter in the dark and quiet.

All of these pieces were quite lovely in their own way, from the formal to the raucous.  Dancing by the members of the company was uniformly strong and precise, with only a few stutters noted in the corps in the subtly difficult opening of La Bayadere, which did not at all detract from what followed. All in all, it was a very enjoyable program, and we are looking forward with interest to the next season. 
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