Dani Kuepper: The Mover and Shaker

After two decades with Danceworks, Dani Kuepper is still making moves.

For Danceworks artistic director Dani Kuepper, 2019 was a year of calculated risks. After more than two decades of operation, the modern dance company doubled in size, adding eight new performers with diverse styles of dance training.

Kuepper held an audition last spring to expand the company, intentionally inviting professional-level performers with any kind of dance or physical theater training. The turnout was three times larger than any previous audition. “They were an eclectic group of movers,” Kuepper says, “and more diverse.”

“This whole thing began as a way to problem-solve,” she explains. Danceworks was getting requests to perform that were difficult to accommodate with a small company of part-time dancers. “It was a leap of faith,” she says, adding that the board of directors was fully supportive and felt assured that the investment would eventually even out.

A deeper well of performers has allowed Danceworks to say yes to more outside gigs, including regular appearances at the new Saint Kate arts hotel.

Rebranded as Danceworks Performance MKE, the new company also pushes Kuepper choreographically, as she now works with a group of 14 dancers of varied backgrounds.

Two upcoming performances serve as the new DPMKE’s official launch. With Milwaukee’s skyline as the backdrop, “Out of Many, One” premieres at the gorgeous Jan Serr studio on the UW-Milwaukee campus (Feb. 6-8). And “101 Ways to Enter & Exit (Stage Door Left)” is coming to the Next Act Theatre in the Third Ward (May 14-17) – riffing on the Shakespearean line “all the world’s a stage,” the dance-theater piece plays with theatrical entrances and exits as a metaphor for the comings and goings in our lives.

Even with all this change, Kuepper feels that Danceworks’ spirit remains the same. A typical season keeps audiences on their toes with something for everyone and a healthy dose of humor. And Danceworks’ commitment to the community remains unwavering: “We haven’t changed the focus that we’ve always had on collaboration with different arts organizations and independent artists. There’s a very conscious choice to connect with other artists in the community to make art from the ground up.”

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This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s February issue

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