2012–2013 Performing Arts Preview
Behind-the-scenes interviews and full schedules introduce the robust new arts season
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Madison Ballet stages The Nutcracker in December.
At Dance Wisconsin, the focus is on the up-and-coming dancers, who hone their skills alongside professionals to produce new works and fresh takes on classics in a high-involvement setting.
“[Our dancers] dance from 9:30 to 5 every day,” says artistic director Jo Jean Retrum.
With a rigorous schedule, you can bet that these dancers of all ages are fully prepared for their performances. This season, those include the traditional Nutcracker Fantasy, an original family-friendly take on the classic work. Coppelia is another standout feature this year, in its first Dance Wisconsin iteration since 2004.
“Coppelia is an interesting work about an engaged man who falls in love with a doll (named Coppelia), and realizes later on that his love is, in fact, just a doll," Retrum says. “A lot of the old ballets have a romantic theme to them."
With Coppelia, however, Dance Wisconsin takes on a unique interpretation of romance.
Such performances require much planning and preparation, so Retrum employs dancers who have since gone on to professional companies as well as established professionals, like Sasha Radetsky, a principal dancer with American Ballet Theater. And she values Dance Wisconsin alumni willing to return and choreograph new works.
“One of the neatest things is the new works concert, seeing all of my performer dancers come back and create work,” she says. “ I think that is one of the most rewarding things ... I can give opportunities to my own dancers.”
New Works October 13
Nutcracker Fantasy December 7–9
Coppelia March 16–17
Kanopy Dance Company
Stories and myths about the end of the world have been told as long as cultures have existed. This fall, Kanopy Dance Company brings several cultural traditions and stories together in a chilling physical interpretation of the end, with a concert aptly titled End Times: Choreography of the Apocalypse.
As co-artistic director Robert Cleary began choreographing to music by a local composer, Thomas Powell, it became clear that the fall show would be dark.
“[Powell] did a suite of five short songs, and the music is sung by an opera singer singing poems about the end of the world,” Cleary says. “Then the second half of this piece will be a thirteen-minute symphonic piece that [Powell] composed about the end of the world.”
The stories in Powell’s songs pull from various cultures, including Sanskrit and Norse poetry.
From there, the concert flows into a realm of dark choreography by co-artistic director Lisa Thurrell in “Cassandra’s Cry,” and then on to “Pithos,” a piece by Kanopy choreographer Kerry Parker based on the unleashing of Pandora’s box.
Moving into spring, the tone lightens a bit with Yggdrasil, a romantic rendition of the Norse tree of life. Additionally, Parker’s contribution will be “warm and abstract,” following a mystic named Sofia through a series of gestures and allusions.
And finally, the summer show veers away from darkness and light, with an eclectic presentation of Antigone. With largely Greek influences, the performance is technically a tragedy but is music-centric, featuring a beautiful score.
End Times: Choreography of the Apocalypse November 2–4
Yggdrasil: The Tree of Norse Mythology February 8–10
Antigone: All in the Family April 5–7
Li Chiao-Ping Dance
In its third year of production, The Knotcracker has quickly become a Li Chiao-Ping Dance seasonal treat. Performed this year at Overture’s cozy Playhouse Theater, viewers sit practically within arm’s reach of the stage, making the artistically athletic concert all the more breathtaking.
The Knotcracker's whimsy and poignancy balance out depictions of riot and rebellion in Li’s spring show, Riot of Spring. This new work draws inspiration from the controversial Rite of Spring ballet, which premiered in the early 1900s and provoked its own riots in Parisian streets.
The Knotcracker November 29
Riot of Spring May 2–5
Madison Ballet is gearing up for an ambitious season that reaches far beyond those past with a purely Madison new work and Nutcracker spoof to complement its traditional Nutcracker performance.
The spoof is Nutty Nut, and is a well-known take on the classic Nutcracker to many ballet groups nationwide, according to general manager Gretchen Bourg. Nutty Nut, however, is more of a concept than a script, which allows Madison Ballet to inject local references sure to make the show relevant to the community.
“The performance will loosely follow the storyline of The Nutcracker, and also include lots of fun spoofs … Who knows if there will be Badgers or Packers references,” Bourg says.
Yet The Nutcracker will still grace the stage as a time-honored holiday tradition.
To further expand its creative scope, Madison Ballet has pieced together an entirely original iteration of Dracula, with artistic roots grounded more firmly in Madison than the infamous vampire’s Transylvanian home.
Choreographed by Madison Ballet artistic director Earle Smith to an original rock—yes, rock—score by local musician and composer Mike Nancy, this is truly a homegrown take on an international classic. The local novelty doesn’t end there: Madison’s steam punk community lent its aesthetic to the costume and set design, forging a partnership that meshes a classical art form with an industrial renaissance.
“We’re really hoping to draw in an audience that may have the perception that ballet is not for them,” Bourg says. “So [Dracula] will be very contemporary, and still showcase the ballet aesthetics. I think artistically, all of the ballet world understands that we are grounded in tradition … but like any good art form, it needs to speak to its time.”
The Nutcracker December 15–24
Nutty Nut December 22
Dracula March 8–10
Exposed April 19–20
Next up: Music