BWW Review: GENESIS Competition Creates the Future of Dance at the Milwaukee Ballet

BWW Review: GENESIS Competition Creates the Future of Dance at the Milwaukee Ballet

Origin. Source. Root. Outset. That, broadly, is "genesis." This weekend for the Milwaukee Ballet, the word takes on something of great significance to the dance community here in town. Genesis is a world-class choreographic competition, offering dancers and audiences alike the chance to break from tradition, experience something more contemporary, and discover new talent that will shape our local ballet scene in the year to come.

How It Works
This is the eighth Genesis: International Choreographic Competition hosted by the Milwaukee Ballet. To enter, choreographers from around the world submit footage of their work. The only credential: a current contract with a professional classical or contemporary dance company.

Three hand-selected finalists then showcase new works and vie for the prize of commissioning a piece for the Milwaukee Ballet. "Last summer, 46 choreographers submitted entries from all over the globe," says Artistic Director Michael Pink. Of the 46, three finalists were chosen: Cass Mortimer Eipper (Australia), Aleix Mañé (Spain), and Kenneth Tindall (Scotland).

"These choreographers were challenged to create their world premieres in only three short weeks, working with eight randomly-chosen dancers," Pink explains. "It's a process that tests them artistically and empowers them to produce a truly unique performance."

The 2019 Competition
This year's choreography offers three very different moods, themes, and movements. It's an experience that has to be seen and felt firsthand. The order of appearance changes with each night of performances, but on Opening Night, we were treated first to Tindall's abstract, pebble-inspired piece.

His choreography stems from the idea that "we were all part of one rock before and we all got smashed down in time and splintered and sent around the Earth." Tindall's work is gorgeously fluid, the graceful dancing continuing on even through silent breaks in music. There's a sense of intimacy and connection in his moody, modern dance.

Up next was Aleix Mañé's ExiliO. It's the story of thousands of families displaced from their homeland following the Spanish Civil War in 1939. "The roads were overcome with those who were exhausted, sad, enraged, and grieving for the loss of loved ones." This anguish is certainly felt in Mañé's strong, often-stuttered choreography. The movements are jagged, warlike, and entrancing in their unconventional beauty. Mañé succeeds in what he's set out to do, both in execution and emotion.

Bringing it home on Opening Night was Eipper's Spur - "an investigation of the human condition. Where we came from and where we are going. How we have evolved and how we haven't." Cue the strobe lights; of the three, this piece is, to me, the most wild and unsettling. Haunting, even. That's what's great about the work being done through Genesis. It's the chance to see something unexpected, thrilling, and maybe even startling.

Your Vote Matters!
Well, at least it matters for the Audience Choice Award. There is actually a panel of well-qualified and esteemed judges who make the all-important decision of who will win the chance to commission a piece for the Milwaukee Ballet. That said, filling seats is a key component in Genesis, as the whole point is to explore and find the next wave of dance - what speaks to people, what do they want to see, what makes them sit up and take notice.

Being an active participant in experiences like Genesis is vital to the growth of the arts, not only in the Milwaukee community but in the arts world at large. "Past Genesis winners have all gone on to establish themselves as professionals," Pink says. "Some have become artistic directors and formed their own dance companies. One has choreographed for Olympic athletes. I'm very much looking forward to the futures of these finalists."

Genesis is where that future is born. This is the outset, and we're invited to participate in the creation of what's to come. Join the Milwaukee Ballet for Genesis through February 17th at the Pabst.

Photo Credit: Nathaniel Davauer.

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