3 Big Dance Productions to See in May

Old fables and true stories take center stage in these dance performances from three major Milwaukee companies. Plus: see a gallery from our photo shoot with Milwaukee Ballet dancers in the streets of Milwaukee.

Marize Fumero, who comes by way of the English National Ballet, poses on Water Street one early April morning. Fumero plays the Queen of Hearts in the Milwaukee Ballet’s Alice (in wonderland). Photo by Adam Ryan Morris.
Marize Fumero, who comes by way of the English National Ballet, poses on Water Street one early April morning. Fumero plays the Queen of Hearts in the Milwaukee Ballet’s Alice (in wonderland). Photo by Adam Ryan Morris.


It’s unusual to have three important dance openings in a single month, but that’s what May offers, with works from Wild Space Dance, the Milwaukee Ballet and Danceworks Performance Company.

Photo by Marylene Me.
Photo by Marylene Me.


May 6-8
Song from the Uproar
It may seem like fiction, but Song from the Uproar is inspired by the journals of Victorian-era explorer Isabelle Eberhardt, who was killed in Algeria in a flash flood when she was only 27. Milwaukee Opera Theatre and Wild Space Dance Company will join forces to produce this contemporary chamber opera by Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek. The piece was originally staged with video projections and electronic effects, but director Jill Anna Ponasik and choreographer Debra Loewen are cutting back on the electronics and using dance to add psychological depth. “Vavrek, the librettist, referred to the music as a ‘fever dream,’” says Loewen. Ponasik learned of Uproar from Skylight Music Theatre’s Viswa Subbaraman, who will conduct the performances. “Two minutes after I popped the CD in my car stereo, I thought, ‘Wild Space,’” Ponasik says. “The music has a sense of yearning, a sense of never settling in one place.”
➸ Broadway Theatre Center, wildspacedance.org.

Photo by Paul Ruffolo Photography.
Photo by Paul Ruffolo Photography.


May 12-15
The Quest
Danceworks Performance Company is no stranger to abstract, postmodern movement. But sometimes the group likes to get theatrical. In 2015, it teamed up with Milwaukee Opera Theatre for the Fairy Queen Fantasy and two years ago, it staged a playful version of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale with playwright and performer Jason Powell. With this month’s The Quest, Powell is at it again, melding figures from fairy tales into a musical narrative that includes his own original songs and music performed by the Chant Claire Chamber Choir. Since Powell is familiar with Danceworks’ dancers, he had no problem matching them to the characters in his story. Kim Johnson plays a “Sleeping Beauty” with a bad case of narcolepsy, the puckish Melissa Anderson plays a jester, and Christal Wagner is a winter maiden with mystical powers.Choreographer Dani Kuepper’s task was to translate their personalities with movement, and Powell’s songs will propel the story. “Jason is a hilarious storyteller, so he’ll create an interesting world,” Kuepper says.
➸ Next Act Theatre, danceworksmke.org.

Photo by Tom Davenport.
Photo by Tom Davenport.


May 19-22
Alice (in wonderland)
The Milwaukee Ballet closes its season with a familiar account rooted in the fantastic, Septime Webre’s Alice (in wonderland), based on Lewis Carroll’s beloved tale. Since its premiere at the Washington Ballet in 2012, Alice has been performed around the country, usually to sold-out houses. “It’s a complete family experience,” says Michael Pink, Milwaukee Ballet’s artistic director. “It showcases incredible dancing by the company. The stage pictures are bright and bold.” Of course, all the contortion-heavy parts are considerable challenges for the dancers. “It’s the kind of piece where you wonder if the dancers have any bones in their bodies,” says Pink.
➸ Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, milwaukeeballet.org.

‘On the Moves’ appears in the May 2016 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the May issue on newsstands beginning May 2, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

Be the first to get every new issue. Subscribe.



Paul Kosidowski is a freelance writer and critic who contributes regularly to Milwaukee Magazine, WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio and national arts magazines. He writes weekly reviews and previews for the Culture Club column. He was literary director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater from 1999-2006. In 2007, he was a fellow with the NEA Theater and Musical Theater Criticism Institute at the University of Southern California. His writing has also appeared in American Theatre magazine, Backstage, The Boston Globe, Theatre Topics, and Isthmus (Madison, Wis.). He has taught theater history, arts criticism and magazine writing at Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.