Sunday, March 29, 2009

White spring and other dances


First Bloom of the Spring!
Originally uploaded by V'ron
If you're not in Milwaukee, you haven't had to listen to all of us (myself included) pissing and moaning about the weather. We got (depending on what side of town you're on) between six and twelve inches of snow this weekend, not one week after we had a 60 degree day. And not two days after my first spring bloom happened -- the iris reticulata you see here, poking up through last fall's dead leaves, reminding me that it's indeed coming, this spring that never seems to get here. That's why I planted them, as well as the crocus that should be poking up this week once the snow melts.

At least this wasn't hitting us Friday night, when Stella and I spent another lovely day at the Ballet. This was the biannual Genesis International competition, where Michael Pink invites three up and coming choreographers to come to Milwaukee, gives 'em each a third of his dance company, and they all get three weeks to come up with something. Winner gets 3K (whoop-de-do!) and the whole company next year to give us Milwaukeeans a world premier work. (Presumably, that will net them more than 3K).

They put this all in the Pabst Theatre, which is one of my favorite places in town to see a show anyway. There's not a bad seat in the house, and you can get a drink (Stella enjoyed a Shirley Temple) and take it to your seat. The voting this year was a little messed up, though. they gave us ballots, but only with numbers 1, 2, and 3 on them -- and then Michael Pink proceeded to tell us that the order for Friday was differen than the order for Thusrday and that 2 was really1 and, and, and, oh hell. We decided to go with the "cast your vote online" option, and I have this feeling that was the point. You were supposed to be confused by the paper ballot and go online to see their snappy new website and vote there. So we did.

Friday night's first performance was Eso, choreographed by New Zealand's Cameron Mc Millan. The music was by Ezio Bosso, a piece simply titled Violin Concerto, and maybe that Phillip Glass documentary on Ovation TV earlier in the day was sticking in my head, but the music did seem very Phillip Glass-ish. It was very athletic -- almost more gymnastic than ballet. McMillan even pointed out in his artist's statement that he's "interested in pure physicality as a vocabulary and form of expression in the human condition." So McMillan used this, I thought, very well in tangling his dnacers together and apart. Stella didn't like it. She's more into storytellers, and Eso might have been a little too ESOteric for her.

Her winner was the next offering, from Austrailian wunderkind Timothy O'Donnell, "The Games We Play." To say the music was a string of classic and well-known pieces (Tchaikovsky, Bach, Beethoven, Bizet, Grieg) wouldn't have captured the effect the music had. Several of the pieces were arranged (performed) by Woody Phillips, who I have learned as a result of this, is a master of making power tools musical. Stella liked it instantly -- there wasn't a standard plot storyline, but there were clearly characters, there was a sense of humor, and even Stella flipped out a bit at the end, when the romantic storyline took a surprise twist (hint: a little girl-on-girl action.). I loved it too, but I had to decide if I loved it because I also enjoyed the wonderful take on the music or not.

Finally, after yet another Shirley Temple (the bartender at the Pabst makes a lovely nonalcoholic mix, Stella and I will tell you), we had "City of the Shining Jewel" from european choreographer, Maurice Causey. The music was from Mikhail Karakis from his album "Morphica", and it just as well could have been the KLF from their album "Chill Out." This music -- and the dance that accompanied it -- was beyond ambient. The piece, like the music, was bits and pieces of this and that loosely strung together, with the dancers having spoken word parts. I'm sorry I'd read the artist's statement, because, it set me up against the piece: it was, um, kind of pretentious. It was like he was trying to cram every influence of his life into those 20 minutes, and the piece itself just seemed to be trying a little too hard to be "groundbreaking" and "intense." It didn't suck, and I didn't hate it, but it lacked a certain warmth that the two previous pieces had. Then, clearly in the middle of it, he gets a dancer to do a bit of Carmen's Habenera himself, but after O'Donnell's, it had the misfortune to be kind of pleading with the audience, "No, really, I can laugh at myself too! Really! Honest!" MAybe I would have liked it better if it was first, but after two really warm performances, this was a little too out there for me. (And I like the KLF -- I often use it to Chill Out.)

Needless to say, I was torn between Eso and The Games We Play, but Stella and I decided that she was clearly going to vote for "The Games We Play," and so I cast my vote for "Eso" so that we kind of canceled out each other. I'll be curious as to what the "official" judges think, as well as the audience vote, which I believe should be released tomorrow. I'm also looking forward to next season -- among the shows will be Cinderella and Peter Pan -- there's story for Stella.

Haven't seen a lot of bands lately. I'm still kind of recovering from that bout with strep I had, but I'm really looking forward to the debut of Dinah Flo and her Roadmasters on Wednesday at Frank's Power Plant. You may remember my raving about the fabulous Jessica from Skirt -- this is her new outfit, complete with her sweetie Chris "The Colonel" on guitar. No cover on Wednesday, either. And no, this is not an April Fools' joke.

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