Company dancer Kristen Hammer will appear in the ballet’s season finale March 31-April 1.
“I’m really optimistic about where we’re going,” says general manager Gretchen Bourg. “We’ve had a rough couple of years but we have got a great team in place on the administrative side and our company looks wonderful. It makes me happy to think, ‘Okay. We’ve turned a corner. We’re getting there.’ ”
Primavera, which runs March 31 and April 1 at the Bartell Theatre,“ is sort of the romantic evening of the season,” says artistic director W. Earle Smith. The company is creating a tribute to William Shakespeare for his 400th birthday and will perform excerpts from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And Smith has choreographed the Romeo and Juliet pas de deux.
Four of the concert’s six works are premieres. One highlight will be “Internal Divide,” staged by Marlene Skog, a choreographer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Dance Department. It features original music and is based on the medieval ritual dance called La Folia. Last year, Skog developed a solo based on Vivaldi’s interpretation, but she still wanted contemporary contrast. She approached Milwaukee-area composer Timothy Russell to collaborate on the project. “His compositions are eclectic, brilliant, take you on a journey,” says Skog.
Early last year, Madison Ballet cancelled two big productions, Peter Pan at the Overture Center and a tour of its original commissioned Dracula, in order to avoid accumulating more debt. Beginning in 2011, as financial troubles mounted, the company had already begun cutting costs by staging some performances at the Bartell Theatre instead of at the more costly Overture Center. The Bartell’s Drury Stage seats approximately 200 patrons. “We can really focus in on individual dancers,” says Bourg, adding that the smaller setting “really personalizes the experience of watching ballet, which can come off as very prim and standoffish.”
She laughs, adding, “It’s great for people to be able to hear a dancer breathing heavily after doing something amazing.”
The troupe is broadening its appeal by expanding its style repertoire. Primavera also includes strong tango and Broadway flavors.
The ballet’s repertory series will continue in 2017-18, and it’s possible to purchase season tickets for only those concerts. One of them will be staged at the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater, and will include live music. Another concert will be choreographed by women only.
“Next season is going to be about challenging ourselves as dancers and artists like we have not challenged ourselves before,” says Smith. “It’s going to be very exciting for the audience.”
From a financial standpoint, Smith says the troupe is “forging forward.” The company’s winter production of The Nutcracker was its bestselling ever. And in July, the troupe added a development director, Alicia Kopp, who performed that role for Milwaukee Ballet. Smith calls her “a rock star.”
As many arts organizations face further cuts under President Trump’s proposed budget, Smith says it’s important for people to support local arts organizations. “Whether it’s the symphony, the opera, the ballet, the theater, I think people really need to step it up,” he says.
For “Primavera” tickets or more information visit madisonballet.org. Season tickets will go on sale by early summer.