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A new local dance troupe is bringing its art to the masses.

Arriving in Milwaukee in 2014, modern dancer Daniel Burkholder and his wife, Andrea Chastant Burkholder, wanted to explore “how to make the arts a part of daily life that welcomes everybody and creates a broader sense of community,” Daniel says.

“Many people view the arts as a unique experience for some,” adds Andrea, “as opposed to a daily experience. For us, it’s a part of daily life – like going shopping or talking to friends.”

They set out to bring the dance experience to Milwaukeeans after leading separate dance companies in the Washington, D.C./Maryland area. In May, they started Real Time, a monthly audience-friendly performance series that combines formal choreography and improvised dance. They hope their series will help make dance less formal and mystical – make it part of an audience member’s “real time.”

For their August performance, they brought along an unusual collaborator. As they spoke to the two dozen people gathered at the Holton Bridge Swing Park, Andrea picked up a potted plant with a half-dozen sprouting leaves. “We planted this bulb on the day of the first Real Time,” she said as she held it up to the audience. “It has a few more leaves than it did last month.” A few minutes later, Daniel and Andrea dove into a 30-minute improvised dance.

They created musical patterns by scuffling their feet over the sand-covered concrete that surrounds much of the park. They invited audience members to take to the swings – and joined them – experimenting with the rhythms of the back-and-forth motion. Most dramatically, Andrea left the ground behind, climbing on the iron scaffolding that supports the bridge. She ended the performance by using one of the swings to rise some 15 feet above the ground, wrapping her limbs in the chains in an aerial routine that wouldn’t be out of place under a big top.

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Both the plant and the event reflect one of the duo’s primary artistic concerns, the passage of time and how we spend it, whether it is a half-hour performance, or the months-long duration of a plant’s life. “Isn’t that what live performance is all about?” asks Andrea by telephone a few days later. “It’s not recorded. It’s in ‘real time.’ We move. The audience reacts. We feed each other.”

‘Culture Club’ appears in the October 2015 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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