BWW Review: MKE Ballet's 'Oh Wow' KALEIDOSCOPE EYES Turns Audiences on to World Premieres

BWW Review: MKE Ballet's 'Oh Wow' KALEIDOSCOPE EYES Turns Audiences on to World Premieres
Photo Credit: Mark Frohna

With two world premiere ballets and ten Beatles songs front and center on the Uhlein Stage, Milwaukee Ballet presented their Kaleidoscope Eyes at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in an exquisite opening night performance. Emmy award-winning Lighting Designer David Grill, a dream team technician for the ballet's Artistic Director Michael Pink, collaborated with three acclaimed choreographers, Garrett Smith, Timothy O'Donnell, and Trey McIntyre, for a triple dose of "Oh Wow" contemporary dance performed with love, as the Beatles would say, "From Me to You," the ballet to the city's audiences.

To open the evening, Smith's "Addendum" features a nine dance ensemble and an equal amount of miniature chairs. With the MKE ballet's costume shop fashioning fluid, open front hoodies paired with leggings in primary colors, the ballet begins and transitions movements in silence--the dancers and chars becoming one with each other at various sections during the ballet.

Grill's lighting, often cool, white, pinpoint spotlights, produces evocative effects while the chairs spin or twist to the dancers' movements while the translucent hoodies flutter behind the dancers for sensual effect. A ballet focusing on complicated lifts and spectacular positions, several pas de deux, both masculine and feminine, mesmerize the audience. An inventive ballet, dancers and chairs acquire iconic status in Smith's innovative patterns created on stage-a number where chairs create a fascinating "addendum' to the dance.

Choreographer in residence Timothy O'Donnell speaks to "The Sixth Sin"-or envy-in his provocative and powerful piece, where Oh Wow describes the envious lifestyle and body image. With Valerie Harmon and Alexandre Ferreira dressed similar to a Greek God and Goddess, perhaps Adonis and Athena, the ensemble worships their bodies and lifestyle. Again, Grill's lighting translates the set design, white torsos of men and women hanging on a rack or suspended from the ceiling to emphasize the perfect body molds society envies. Words mix with music throughout the dance that begins when a young voice speaks: "I want to be pretty like the girls in the magazines-then I will be happy."

Francesca O'Donnell's costumes shaded in grays and claret colors accented with turquoise use variations on fashionable work out clothing and lingerie to cover or uncover "the body of your dreams." Here the repetition of dance movements and steps mimics the repetition of exercises a person religiously attempts to achieve godlike status where a masculine pas de deux proves to be extremely powerful, suggesting men also succumb to envy. O'Donnell's ending will eave the audience with a thought provoking portrayal of the rise and fall of celebrity and body envy, something to ponder after leaving the theater.

To end the evening, another iconic, now classic ballet by the inimitable Trey McIntrye titled "A Day In the Life" offers ten songs composed by the Beatles reaching to "Strawberry Fields Forever,," to "Wild Honey Pie," and "Eleanor Rigby." Costumes created by The Bisou Consortium present an ensemble dressed in white dresses with hi-lo hemlines, sleeveless-shirts and flared white jeans with shots of color placed on each garment-and the women dance en pointe.

Marc Petrocci shines throughout this particular day in the life of the ballet, especially in a pas de deux with Parker Brasser-Vos in "Golden Slumbers" while Itzel Hernadez pairs graciously with Davit Hovhannisyan in the romantic "In My Life." Hernadez stars solo in "Julia," which connects modern stylized movements to classic pointe-perfect for the Beatles who fused musical genres to a half century of composed lyric perfection.

Nicole Teague and Hovhannisyan entwine for an enchanting "Ballad of John and Yoko"-a playful pas de deux touched with rock and roll from the late 1960's. Another melody from the late 60's, "Ob-li di, Ob-li-da," stages joyful dance with smiling faces where Grill's reimagined lighting washes the dancers and stage backdrop in that kaleidoscope of colors to enliven these Beatles' classics for the ultimate presentation.

In MKE Ballet's contemporary tour de force of world premieres and a modern ballet, the significance of new works radiates brilliant shades of color into classical choreography. To see with one's own eyes, live and on stage, and then have the opportunity to donate to the "New Works Fund," to ensure this tradition remains alive and well for future generations. To quote the Beatles again, "They'd like to turn you, the audience, on, " to experiencing these exceptional ballets overflowing with masculine and feminine energy. Get in the mood, and turned on to contemporary ballet with this weekend's extraordinary Kaleidoscope Eyes.

The Milwaukee Ballet presents two world premieres and Trey McIntyre's A Day in the LIfe at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts through April 3. For information on their 2016-2017 season or the upcoming Alice in Wonderland, visit

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