This is a favorite event of mine. Mid-winter break with some great dancing and inventive and challenging choreography. Details:
Winterdances 2023: Longing is Momentum in Disguise (February 2 – February 5) features four premieres where artists activate personal and collective transformation of memory and visibility with a tenderness and fierceness of being. These dances invite us to places within, where empathy and compassion create connection and where limits create worlds we want to live in. Featuring works from UW-Milwaukee Department of Dance faculty Daniel Burkholder, Mair Culbreth, Karlies Kelley, and guest artist Kia Smith, artistic director of the South Chicago Dance Theater. Sound design and percussion by Andy Miller.
Back in the day when I attended the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (fall of 1970 through December 1973), Bolton Hall was a free standing class room and office building. It was relatively new having been completed in 1964. It faced the grassy quad area north of Kenwood Boulevard and was north east of the original Student Union. Although not quite a brutalist building, it was certainly a design product of the period.
Today it is connected to the expanded Student Union. And instead of leaving one building to access the other, today you can access Bolton Hall from the Union via a glass enclosed walkway and there’s the rub. The walkway is visible in this contemporary photo of the building taken from the Spaights Plaza, a concrete expanse that replaced the green space during the Union expansion when a two level underground parking structure was built as part of the expansion.
The approach area to Bolton Hall from the south (the Union and Kenwood Boulevard) include a series of what apparently are cast concrete panels with an organic pattern incised into them. These panels appear on the south side at ground level facing the addition to the Student Union (which was completed in 1973 I think but I haven’t documented that at this time) and on the southeast entrance to the building. I have been on campus a bit over the past few years but haven’t walked around the building so I don’t know if this decorative motif adorns other entrance areas.
But here are few views of the southern exposure facing the Student Union. Quite a nice motif at ground level for an otherwise rather faceless building.
These are still outdoors along a little used walkway but clearly visible from the food court seating area in the Student Union. So they are still being seen as they were meant to be seen for the most part. Although of course the space is confined compared to when there would have been open space south of the building back in 1964.
Now there are similar decorative panels at the south east entrance to the building that are enclosed in the glass atrium walkway. So you’d expect them to fair better being out of the elements and maybe they would…if not for the callous intervention of mankind. Here, take a look and you will see what I mean.
These poster frames are simply screwed into the concrete panels, totally disrespecting the integrity of the art work and the architecture. And they don’t really need these posters here. The university posts similar media on the the glass windows of the walkway and the Student Union on a continuing basis and being a high traffic area no one stops to read these anyway. I know, I had to work quickly to avoid including students in my photos…and the quality and focus suffered as a result. The following photo is the northern portion of the series without any disfigurement. I didn’t check to see if the was any sign of previous posters or frames.
I don’t quite get the cavalier attitude that the university has taken in regard to this art work. They have carefully maintained any number of old…including very old buildings on the old Downer campus and of course the venerable Mitchell Hall. So they still work as comfortable classroom buildings. Why the careless disregard for this one…well…particularly the artwork meant to enhance the building and the student experience?
I majored in the visual arts and was urged to attend UWM because of their outstanding fine arts program. I loved my experience there so I don’t understand how this could happen. Was there or was there not any complaints from the art department or art faculty. And UWM also has a world class architecture school. Didn’t they notice the disrespect shown for a key building on their own campus?
I urge UWM to remove the frames and perform any restoration necessary…let these concrete murals speak for themselves…unblemished!…unhindered!
And one more photo from another vantage point. This one is from the north east portion of Spaights Plaza.
Milwaukee has a robust and highly skilled dance scene in a large part because of the dance program at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts. And for me, their Winterdances program is a much anticipated highlight in a dreary month of February.
This season’s presentation featured four new works by four choreographers who had something to say and a cast of dance students who were able to give voice and moment to the choreography. A side note, the first three pieces also credit the dancers with assistance in developing the works. And there wasn’t a ballet slipper in the house!
The opening dance was Weight of Inscriptions, choreographed by the department’s artistic director Maria Gillespie. The main stage theater at the UWM Fine Arts complex features a thrust stage and in this case it was configured as a large circle and the circle was completely covered with a sheet of white drawing paper. Now we are used to thinking of dancers as moving through space, controlling that space, interacting with one another, defining the space between themselves, and existing as a kinetic time based media. But in this work the focus shifts to the two dimensional as each dancer takes up charcoal and makes marks across the stage. But not just any marks…they are defined by two points of the dancers body…a pivot point such as a hip or stomach…and then the end of the hand holding the charcoal as the dancer reaches out and pivots around on the floor of the stage. It creates some rather mesmerizing arcs and circles and should remind us all of the designs we drew after being given our first compass. But the dance goes beyond even the overall drawing. The dancers area of action while drawing is limited by the lighting which expands or contracts as the dance evolves and the dancer(s) have to react within the lighted areas. This was all very effective and captivating to this member of the audience. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an opportunity to document the fluid lines on the floor at completion. But by dance end, the dancers had attracted their share of charcoal to their costumes. Performers: Sydney Bannach, Mckenzie Johnson, Grace Winkel, Rae Zimmerli. Guest Artist Performer: Cuauhtli Ramirez Castro.
And this was followed by it’s own little performance piece, albeit not a ‘dance’. Two stage hands came on to pick up and fold the circular drawing paper…to clear the deck…and prevent spilling excess charcoal on the stage. It was a slick bit of choreography in its own right and reminded me of the ground crews at the old Milwaukee County Stadium rolling up the tarp after a rain shower. Yesterday these two individuals earned their own round of applause.
Next is probably the most intriguing dance of the series, second wave of the plastic tide, choreographed by Simone Ferro. This dance has a powerful story to tell and goes all out to tell it in a very dramatic and energetic manner. The dance features six dancers in costumes that have fluttery pieces attached that reminded me of feathers. So of course the tale of Icarus comes to mind…but the energy and contrasts…would also suggest influences from African or Pre-Columbian dance or tales. The stage here included a central ramp inside the proscenium portion of the stage leading to a low platform that overlooked a mattress padded area. And in repetitions the dancers proceeded up the ramp to the platform and tried to leap off the other side while a companion held them back…until they lost their grip and the lead dancer fell to earth on the mattress. Each fallen angel then rolled aside to make way for the next Icarus and picked up a piece of detritus and found a place for it along the front of the stage. As they proceeded the front edge began to fill up with litter…and as the title suggests plastic litter and from my seat the items looked like one of the most prominent pieces of litter of our time, an Amazon Prime plastic envelope. The musical accompaniment here was live and courtesy of a number of percussion students from the UWM music department…and the intensity of the drums cleanly emphasized the intensity and dynamics of the dance. Performers: Deajah Barney, Kaylee Branshaw, Destiny Garland, Lily McClutchy, Maddie Westreich. Guest Artist Performer: Gina Laurenz.
After intermission, Equation of Motion brought the tempo down a bit and restored a sense of tranquility to the scene. Using recorded music that tended toward an ambient meadow or woodlot environ, Ashley Ray Garcia, Lauren Fleury, Maya Hirsig-Smith, Emma Meznarich, zaak Ordonez, and Cheyenne Willis brought a fluid sensibility to Anthony ‘YNOT’ Denaro’s choreography. This was a welcome break to just watch dance without feeling on edge…but don’t let me fool you…the music built up and the piece moved to a rewarding dramatic climax.
And the last piece, by choreographer Parijat Desai, is In Her Defense. Here again we are immersed in a story telling line directly involved with understanding and protecting nature. On a stage crowned with naked tree branches that are dramatically limned via colored lights, our dancers perform what might be construed as rituals or supplications around a drawing that they create on the stage. Just to the left of center stage we again find a length of drawing paper and the dancers take turns drawing lines or arcs…sometimes apparently free hand and sometimes outlines of their arm…as the drawing finally resolves into a tree. Eventually the drawing brings all of the dancers together and a physical tree branch is used to create a percussive effect while pounded on the floor and then used to crush a blue pigment on the drawing and daub it around to resemble leaves. According to the program notes, Parijat developed this piece as a part of an ongoing process to make an evening-length work called How Do I Become WE with Parijata Dance Company. And In Her Defense explores our interconnectedness with the natural world and imagines a group of warriors-people who are learning to connect with the land and training to defend Her. Performers: Ava Ferrier, Chase Gilbertson, Zoe Glise, Jessica Lueck, Miranda Parker, Libby Steckmesser, and Jasmine Uras
Unfortunately the pandemic removed one of the joys of attending live dance performances…all of the dancers wore masks (as did the audience)…so we didn’t see any added nuances or signals of intent that faces so often portray.
For more information on choreographer notes, music used, and biographies of the choreographers, and the artistic director’s statement…for the on line program: hopefully this link will survive for sometime. OR see it below (we’ll see if this works):