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You can still vote for your favorite performance this weekend.

Milwaukee Ballet Company. Photo Brian Lipchik

Milwaukee Ballet Company. Photo Brian Lipchik.

Three world premiere dances; three young choreographers—The Milwaukee Ballet’s Genesis Choreographic Competition offers a tempting chance to play Compare and Contrast. That is, in essence, what the audience and the judges do, selecting one of the dances as A Favorite (the result is not necessarily the same).

As for comparisons, here’s a correlation—the shortest written “description” of the dance, the more interesting the ideas. Movement ideas, that is. In “Mortal Form,” Garrett Smith used conventional music unconventionally, mixing and matching two pieces by Haydn and Mozart to create a five movement structure that ends with not a bang, but a gentle, melancholy breath. Smith’s movement is brilliant and precise, and the octet of dancers jumped into it with full commitment and brio. Garrett Glassman sets the tone early with taut articulation and spring-tight physicality.

There’s a good dose of Paul Taylor neo-classicism (emphasized comically by the women’s tutus), big arching lifts with legs splayed like clock hands. But these sweeping gestures butt up against a sort of deconstructed robotics, limb segments clicking into place one after another—it’s as if Lil Buck’s “jookin’” sensibility met up with Devo in a techno mash-up. But the energy beautifully dissipates in the fifth section, with Susan Gartel and Timothy O’Donnell moving in slow motion, set off with dramatic chiaroscuro lighting.

Matthew James Tusa’s “Re:connection,” (about “the levels on which we interact with the world around us”), was on the other side of the style spectrum: theatrical, loosely expressive, full of big-picture sturm und drang sentiments. Rachel Malehorn, a featured soloist, starts off in the bright center of a dimly lit circle of dancers, twitching dramatically as if coming to life. Tusa takes her through a familiar romantic narrative—born into the chaos of an unfeeling world, she is buffeted about as she tries to fit in. Rossini’s overture to La Gazza Ladra offers an opportunity for some “Looney Tunes”-style slapstick. But after a little anarchic levity, the subwoofers return for the dramatic and somber final section. Here, as in the rest of the dance, Malehorn shows complete emotional and physical commitment.

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Riccardo De Negris’s “Can I Say Something…??” is just as ambitious as Tusa’s piece—its program description talks about the nature of silence and communication. Appropriately, the central characters here are four men in whiteface and bowler hats. And the first two minutes of the dance is spent watching Alexandre Ferreira change into his Charlot outfit. Once De Negris got going, however, there was both charm and show-stopping movement here. Short-skirted women flirted and threatened to take control. The men got a chance to mug and flirt back, and to show off a bit with some bravura leaps and unison work.

Come by and vote for your favorite this weekend. Genesis repeats on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

 

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