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Art in Season
Milwaukee Ballet’s "Spring Series" and "Art in Bloom" at MAM scream spring.

 "Simply Sammy." Marshall L. Davis, Jr. and Nicole Teague. Photo Mark Frohna

The weather might not have got the memo, but it’s spring here and the Milwaukee Ballet and the Milwaukee Art Museum are moving full speed ahead. Last weekend, I sought out spring – indoors, at least – and it gave me a renewed sense of hope and optimism for sunnier skies and for our city as an artistic attraction in the Midwest.

Milwaukee Ballet’s Spring Series (April 11-14) staged three starkly different pieces by contemporary choreographers at the Marcus Center, demonstrating just how versatile and talented the company's dancers are. This show also proved that you don’t have to be a ballet fan to enjoy the ballet.

Amy Seiwert’s first dance, Mozart Requiem, was a direct interpretation of this powerful classical piece that examines the process life and death. There was an ethereal quality to it in the costumes and the movements – the most traditional of the three pieces, but not my favorite.

"Children Of The Wall"  with the Milwaukee Ballet Company - Photo Mark Frohna

In contrast, Choreographer-in-Residence Timothy O’Donnell, presented the world premiere  performance of Children of the Wall (above). The fierce, dramatic work caught my attention from the first scene with a single dancer on a dark, smoky stage. Couples appeared, snaking across the stage, gliding from one movement to the next as one body. Then, a dozen dancers clad in black leather, giving off a bit of a dominatrix vibe, took the stage in a visually stimulating, provocative display, reminiscent of a Berlin cabaret scene complete with entrancing music. And heavy on the social commentary. At the end of the piece I was astounded. All I could say was “Thank you Australia, for Tim O’Donnell.”

The men stole the show in Darrell Grand Moultrie's Simply Sammy, with their charisma and aerial tricks, which featured the timeless music of the incomparable Sammy Davis Jr. Tap dancer Marshall Davis Jr. (no relation to Sammy), co-created the work and appeared alongside the Company in two of the dances. He was in the spotlight for a soft and sweet “Mr. Bojangles” with the famous Rat Packer's  image projected on a screen above him. Marshall Davis’s movements were small and concentrated, but with the speed and control of a true virtuoso.

The rest of the performance was an action-packed burst of energy like a Fourth of July parade.  
Davis is widely recognized as one of the best tappers in the world, and he certainly lived up to his reputation; however, the company dancers, with their acrobatic and lithe movements, commanded just as much of my attention. The audience went wild, giving the two latter pieces a standing ovation – myself included.

Art in Bloom photo by Jenna Kashou. 

On Sunday morning, thousands of people were dispersed in Windhover Hall like poppies in a field when I arrived to check out the last day of Art in Bloom, which ran form April 11-14. At first, I was a little overwhelmed by the commercialism of the booths and vendors lining the corridors, but once I arrived at the gallery, it was art in its purest form.

There were 48 different arrangements crafted by regional floral designers on display throughout the three levels of permanent collection galleries. Each arrangement interpreted a corresponding piece of artwork. Some representations were very obvious, and others were not. However, it was hard to find an arrangement  I didn’t like, as many employed rustic, natural elements along with the blooms. Guests had the opportunity to vote for a new “People’s Choice” winner each day. Professional judges selected the top three designs and three honorable mentions. See those winning arrangements here.

If you’ve never had to the opportunity to Art in Bloom, don’t miss the event next year. Bravo to the Milwaukee Ballet and the Milwaukee Art Museum for continuing to present innovative and impeccable art.       

Follow me on Twitter as @jkashou to stay on top of what's happening around town or search #GirlAboutTown.

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