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Don’t be fooled: Ballet isn’t all pink tutus and pirouettes. And Disney wasn’t the only one to tell the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Suspense, drama, a mysterious gypsy – “This is the story that Hugo wrote (Notre-Dame de Paris), and this is the story that packs the punch,” says Milwaukee Ballet Artistic […]

Don’t be fooled: Ballet isn’t all pink tutus and pirouettes. And Disney wasn’t the only one to tell the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Suspense, drama, a mysterious gypsy – “This is the story that Hugo wrote (Notre-Dame de Paris), and this is the story that packs the punch,” says Milwaukee Ballet Artistic Director Michael Pink. It’s an unfortunate coincidence that as I try to make my point, I realize the director’s last name is Pink. But you can see for yourself. The Milwaukee Ballet presents the emotionally charged and edgy Esmeralda to kick off its 2010/11 season Oct. 28-30.

The ballet version was created in England and premiered in 1997, but this performance is getting a facelift. The Milwaukee Ballet performed The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 2004, but now they have more pros at work – Tony Award winner Lez Brotherston did the set design, and Emmy Award winner David Grill creates intimacy in the theater with a new lighting design. Andrews Sill will conduct a smaller scale orchestra than normal, but Philip Feeney’s score (known for Peter Pan and Dracula) creates a suspenseful and powerful sound.

“The beauty of every form of art, such as dance, is that every time you come back to it, there are always things you want to play with; there were always areas of this ballad that I wanted to have time to re-explore, and I’ve been able to do that,” Pink says. This time, he’s emphasized high-quality production elements and superlative dancing.

The performance employs the full Milwaukee Ballet Company of 23 along with the second company of 20 dancers. Two leading artists Julianne Kepley and Luz San Miguel play the role of Esmeralda. Kepley recently joined the company as a leading artist in May 2010 but danced the lead of Juliet in the Ballet’s 2007 production of Romeo & Juliet. “The role of Esmeralda is physically and emotionally taxing; I tend to underestimate the difficulty of it,” says Pink, hence the need for two leading ladies.

Pink compares this interpretation of Notre-Dame de Paris to the popular musical Les Miserable: “I always ask people to remember and think about how much they love that. This is the same author, the same incredible complexities, the same incredible message. It’s just an amazing story. It’s tough, and it’s real, and there are some key messages that we should all be listening to today.”


If you don’t consider yourself a ballet person, Esmeralda would be an opportune time to test it out, but it’s on for one weekend only: Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 28-31 at 7:30 p.m., or Sunday, Oct. 31 at 1:30 p.m. at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. To purchase tickets, click here
or call 414-902-2103.

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