To the editors:
In his promotion of the Milwaukee Ballet as a success story that Chicago might follow (May 31), Lewis Lazare ignores the artistic side of this story. While the Pennsylvania and Milwaukee Ballet produced the most exciting dance to be found in the midwest, the post-PM Ballet Milwaukee Ballet has staged entirely traditional programs, with a little trash (such as John Butler’s setting of Orff’s Carmina Burana) thrown in for good measure.
During its three years, the Pennsylvania and Milwaukee Ballet presented a summer of experimental new works and works in progress, presented two works (Love Songs and Steptext) by the exciting American choreographer and artistic director of the Frankfurt Ballet William Forsythe and premiered three works by Lynne Taylor-Corbett–Final Draft, Brahms Sonatas and Code of Silence. The latter, to Arvo Part’s “Fratres” (the violin-piano version) and “Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten,” is the most powerful new work I’ve seen in perhaps a decade, a work inspired by the treatment of a choreographer during the Chinse Cultural Revolution that used many dance movements to convey bursts of freedom and sudden restraint, partly self-imposed, in a repressive society.
There also was, in addition to solid Balanchine, a challenging program that included Forsythe’s Steptext–fragmented body movements to fragmented Bach solo violin–and five dances by Richard Tanner and Merce Cunningham to prepared piano and other percussive music by John Cage, Henry Cowell and Torbjorn Iwan Lundquist. That might be too much for a Chicago audience, as it was too much for a Milwaukee audience.
The money raised for the reorganized Milwaukee Ballet is as much a reaction against such modernism, brought by outsiders, as it is a positive effort to establish a financially solid local ballet.