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Milwaukee Ballet's twenty-fifth season.

MILWAUKEE--As Milwaukee Ballet (MB) enters its twenty-fifth season, artistic director Dance LaFontsee has two goals: to present choreography that showcases MB's past and heralds its future, and to run the financially troubled company at a surplus. LaFontsee, who has been at the helm for the last four years, says the twenty-eight-member troupe has reason to celebrate its accomplishments at the quarter-century mark. "We are one of the very few companies that have the ability to do three full-length ballets and three repertory evenings a year," he says.

MB will open its anniversary season on September 15 with Romeo and Juliet and close it on May 28, 1995, with Sleeping Beauty. In between it will offer a Nutcracker and three repertoire programs. Of these, LaFontsee says that the April 1995 series, dubbed "The Night We Turned Twenty-five," best represents MB's history. The program includes Glazunov Variations, a divertissement from Marius Petipa's Raymonda; Stars and Stripes, George Balanchine's tribute to American patriotism; and Stepping Stones, a 1992 commission for choreographer Kathryn Posin and composer Joan Tower.

The upcoming season also will see a premiere by LaFontsee set for February 16, 1995. Drawing inspiration from the Potawatomi nation, a local Native American tribe, LaFontsee will choreograph his dance to a composition called Potawatomi Legends, by electronic music pioneer Otto Luening. According to LaFontsee: "The piece [is] really about Otto Luening, who is a genius. It's about keeping his music alive and honoring him."

With the celebration under way, LaFontsee is clear about where the company needs to head in the future. "Technically, we're about half [as far as] I want us to be," he comments. "I like technicians, but I like performers more. It's getting harder and harder to find people who [only] want to dance, but we're looking for them."

The company is closer to its financial goal. It broke even last season, after running a $387,000 deficit the previous year. LaFontsee anticipates that the company will be "completely solven" in another two years, putting behind it forever the fiscal difficulties that arose from an ill-fated joint venture with Pennsylvania Ballet from 1987 to 1989.

LaFontsee lauds his company's diverse programming; yet if he had to choose one ballet that sums up MB's first twenty-five years, it would be that old standby Swan Lake.

"It's an indication of the kind of company we are," he explains. "We train dancers very classically--that's the backbone of the company. I don't feel you can have a really fine corps de ballet unless you can line up in the second and fourth acts."

"Besides," he adds, "Swan Lake takes us back on the road. We've been to Arizona with it and we're looking to send it around to presenters. I'm very proud of the company when they do it."
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Author:Harding, Cathryn
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 1994
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