In Arts & Entertainment

Milwaukee Ballet Company dancers Mark Petrocci and Valerie Harmon perform a scene from Michael Pink's "Peter Pan." (PHOTO: Michael S. Levine)

Milwaukee Ballet dances on air in "Peter Pan"

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Most people probably don't realize the gestation period of a work of this size. When all was said and done, Pink had been working on the piece for five years before premiering it in 2010.

"There's so much more to the production than just the steps," he says. "The only way I know how to do these things is to find an appropriate subject matter and then collaborate with a team of incredibly talented people – scenery designer, composer, costume designer, a company that can provide special effects for flying onstage. Then you spend months, if not years, planning, discussing, preparing."

The final and most grueling part of production occurs in the actual studio.

"That's an intense period of time. For "Peter Pan" I was in studio seven hours, five days a week just to be creating that. Once that was completed, the next part is bringing all the scenery and lighting and live orchestra to the theater."

For most productions the company spends three days at Uihlein Hall before opening night, rehearsing and fine-tuning the production. For "Peter Pan" they gave themselves double that time to bring together all the various aspects of the show.

Pink calls the theater rehearsals a "defining moment."

"That's when you find out if those years of planning paid off," he says. "And I'm pleased to say they did."

Pink began his career as a dancer at the Royal Ballet and later joined the English National Ballet in 1975. He was already an award-winning choreographer and internationally known when he came to Milwaukee in 2002 to succeed Simon Dow as the Milwaukee Ballet's artistic director.

He says that a production of "Peter Pan"'s caliber is every bit as natural onstage in the Midwest as it would be at Royal Albert Hall in London.

"I don't think that just because Milwaukee's perceived as being a small city that it should have anything less than what is perceived to be world-class art," he says. "Then again, we know that the arts are one of our great strengths in this city.

"The beauty of art is that you work with what you have. We don't delude ourselves in terms of saying if we had a million dollars we could do it better. We just do in differently. And the quality is never compromised.

"It's a big testament to the support from the foundations and individuals of this city, which places a high value on the arts and helps me do what I want to do."

Tickets for "Peter Pan" are already selling "like hotcakes," says Pink.

"It is, of course, the piece for all ages. Last time we did this there were grandmothers coming out with tears in their eyes and little kids were coming out giggling and laughing. It managed to touch all people of all ages, which is the magic of the piece."

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