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Wisconsin dance has moves that move you

Some call dance the original art form, with the body as the original instrument. Every time you tap your foot to music, you’ve joined the art of movement.

As primal as it is, though, dance remains one of the least familiar and most underappreciated modern art forms. However, groups in both Madison and Milwaukee are going out of their way this season to right that rhythmic wrong.


Michael Pink enters his 14th year as artistic director of the Milwaukee Ballet, and that tenure has seen many new ballets and world premieres. MB has grown and matured over those years, becoming one of the country’s leading companies.

MB’s 2016 season starts out with two contrasting works. Rimsky-Korsakov’s colorful suite Scheherazade (Oct. 20–23) provides the musical backdrop to Kathryn Posin’s visually lush story ballet, a work that brings to life the mystery and wonder of 1001 Arabian nights.

The same program features Angels in the Architecture, danced to the music of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Mark Godden’s choreography celebrates the simplicity of Shaker life and Copland’s music. The work was originally conceived as a ballet for Martha Graham.

The holiday season, of course, is given over the ballet’s annual performance of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without that enormous tree.

The new year kicks off with Momentum (Jan. 28), which features Milwaukee Ballet II training program dancers performing world premieres by choreographers Thom Dancy, Tania Bolivia Vergara and Rolando Yanes. Expect high energy and boundless enthusiasm here.

Next up is Genesis (Feb. 16–19), the ballet’s international choreography competition that challenges three up-and-coming choreographers to create three new ballets in three weeks. Audience votes, along with the input of a panel of esteemed judges, choose the winner.

Things get more serious later in the spring with La Sylphide (April 6–9), the romantic classic staged by Danish repetiteur Dinna Bjørn. The work mixes classical dance with Scottish reels in the land of sylphs. On the same program, choreographer-in-residence Timothy O’Donnell introduces audiences to Sans Pleurer — his sixth world premiere.

The season closes with Mirror, Mirror (June 1–4), Pink’s interpretation of the Snow White legend reimagined as both a dream and a nightmare. The original work also features longtime collaborator Phillip Feeney’s score.

The Milwaukee Ballet primarily performs at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts’ Uihlein Hall, 929 N. Water St., Milwaukee. 414-203-7206; milwaukeeballet.org

Milwaukee’s dance scene is further enhanced by Danceworks Inc., which provides studio lessons and performance opportunities in a wide range of dance styles and disciplines. For information on upcoming performances, visit danceworksmke.org


After all but disappearing due to financial woes, the Madison Ballet is back, bringing a full slate of programs to the Capital City.

Artistic director W. Earle Smith starts his season with Black/White (Oct. 14–15), a blend of classical and contemporary styles that brings the company’s athletic artistry up close and personal for audience members at the 200-seat Drury Stage in the Bartell Theater.

Madison Ballet and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra once again combine forces in performing Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (Dec. 10–26) on the Overture Hall stage. Swirling snowflakes, menacing mice and a dancing nutcracker — this holiday show has them all.

The ballet returns to the Drury Stage for Bare (Feb. 3–4), offering ballet in its purest forms and showcasing shorter works by current and up-and-coming choreographers. The Madison Ballet’s season wraps with Primavera (March 31–April 1), a program featuring works by artistic director Smith.

The Madison Ballet performs at both Overture Hall, 201 State St., and the Bartell Theatre, 113 E. Mifflin St. in Madison. 608-278-7990; madisonballet.org

Kanopy Dance Company, another resident company at Overture Center for the Arts, has four programs lined up for its 2016–17 season.

The season starts with Martha Graham: [R]evolution in Black and White (Nov. 11–13), which features two principal dancers from the Martha Graham Dance Company. Former company member Miki Orihara will perform the master choreographer’s work “Heretic” from 1929, as well as a piece from her own solo concert, “Resonance.” Graham alumnus Martin Løfsnes and Kanopy Artistic Director Lisa Thurrell also will present Graham-inspired works.

Russian folklore provides the inspiration for Baba Yaga: A Portrait of the Wickedest Witch (Feb. 10–12 and 17–19). The evil old woman, her magic doll and her wicked stepsisters come to life in a dance performance complemented by puppetry, storytelling and New York designer David Quinn’s fantastical costumes.

Flamenco artists Danica Sena and Tania Tandias form the focal point of Snapshots of Spain (April 7–9), a performance that celebrates Spain’s legacy of language, music, culture, history and art in elegant, contemporary and experimental dance. The season ends with Pictures Without Frames (April 22), which features dancers from Kanopy’s pre-professional training program performing work by a variety of choreographers including Thurrell and co-director Robert E. Cleary.

Kanopy Dance Company performs at Overture Center for the Arts’ Promenade Hall, 201 State St., Madison. 608-258-4141; kanopydance.org

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