Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
May 8?11, 2003
Reviewed by Richard Philp
Milwaukee Ballet, long known as one of America?s most enduring, if not always most outstanding, regional troupes presented the world premiere of Kathryn Posin?s Schéhérazade on their home turf. Over the last three decades, the company?s numerous artistic directors have sought to build a solid repertoire that feeds a conservative dance audience interested in classics as well as new choreography.
Schéhérazade is the sixth FOURTH? work created for Milwaukee by the New York-based modern dancemaker and educator Posin. A self-described choreographer of the “lights and tights” school (good lighting, no formal costumes), Posin?s previous dances for Milwaukee have been abstract works driven by her own particular brand of inventive and visceral movement reflecting contemporary concerns. Outgoing Artistic Director Simon Dow commissioned a classical version of Schéhérezade, set to the Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov score. Although the story is most familiar through Michel Fokine?s choreographic retelling of a single episode for Diaghilev?s Ballets Russes in 1910?a work that influenced the direction of twentieth-century ballet?Posin?s was a fresh, nonderivative interpretation of three of the Schéhérazade tales. To keep from being slaughtered by her husband, the Shah?s favorite wife tells him a different story each night; metaphorically speaking, the endangered wife is also keeping alive the verbal traditions of ancient Middle Eastern cultures. Posin tried to weave these fanciful and erotic tales into her own complex choreographic narrative of three rather different, unrelated segment, which principal dancer TKTK, as the lead, performed with allure.
Posin is a Milwaukee celebrity based on her past successes for this ballet company. The roar of approval and standing ovation on opening night were an expression of the fondness that the local audiences obviously feel toward Posin and her work. The production is reported to have been underwritten for $150,000, a substantial investment for a company Milwaukee?s size. But this included designer Judanna Lynn?s thirty-plus elaborate costumes?which seemed to limit the movement rather than enhance it?and performances by a live orchestra which are always, unfortunately, an expensive undertaking that many professional ballet companies avoid these days by using recordings.
Milwaukee Ballet is a company in transition?from one artistic director to another, from one working ensemble of dancers to another, from one level of training and ambition to another?all of which one hopes will be an improvement on present conditions. In the middle of the 2002–03 season a new artistic director, Michael Pink, was brought in to replace Simon Dow. Pink?s reputation is built most notably on his years dancing and choreographing with London Festival Ballet and directing Northern Ballet Theatre, as well as on his enormously successful Dracula, set on the Colorado and Atlanta Ballets, and his Hunchback of Notre Dame for Boston and Atlanta Ballets. By the time Pink arrived he found himself implementing somebody else?s plans. Posin?s Schérérazade had been sandwiched into this awkward period, as were the choreographer and the dancers. Dance companies, like any living thing, are organic creatures given at times to weakness and inconsistency, but judging by his energy, his enthusiastic commitment, and his broad experience, Pink is committed to regrouping, reimagining, and reorganizing. It will be interesting to see this company a year from now after Pink?s influence has taken hold.