Contemporary, classical works and a holiday favorite to fill Madison Ballet’s season

MADISON, WI — Wisconsin’s Madison Ballet will usher in the 2017-2018 season with a variety of mixed-repertory performances and its annual production of The Nutcracker – a lineup of programming that follows in the vein of last season. Founded in 1981, the company has been under the artistic direction of W. Earle Smith since 1999. The former Wisconsin Dance Ensemble reorganized as Madison Ballet, which now operates its studios out of the second floor of Westgate Mall and shares duel performance residencies at the Bartell Theatre and the big, beautiful Overture Center for the Arts. Overture is also the home of Madison Opera and the city’s symphony orchestra, plus a handful of theater and dance companies including Li Chiao-Ping Dance and Kanopy Dance Company.

As in past years, the larger Overture Center serves as the venue for The Nutcracker, that enduring seasonal staple that few U.S. ballet companies can live without. Featuring choreography by Smith, the 150-member cast will incorporate company dancers, students, and community performers. “It’s homegrown and highly professional,” said Madison Ballet’s general manager, Gretchen Bourg. “It’s beyond what people would expect from a town this size.” Running from Dec. 9-26 in the Overture Hall, the production will include live accompaniment of Tchaikovsky’s score by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

Madison Ballet’s “Waltz of the Flowers” from The Nutcracker (2016), choreographed by W. Earle Smith. Annika Reikersdorfer as Dewdrop. Photo courtesy of Becky McKenzie

The Bartell Theatre’s Drury Stage, which seats just 200, will be the setting of two of the season’s mixed-repertory programs. Bourg said that this location has a “more urban vibe” with the performers “right up in your face.” She said it offers Madison Ballet’s dancers a chance to “use their skills outside of story ballets.” Push opens the season, running Oct. 20-21 with contemporary and classical pieces that highlight the athleticism and allure of dancers, including world premieres by Smith and West Virginia University’s General McArther Hambrick. She, which will be presented from Feb. 2-3, will celebrate female choreographers throughout history, including Bronislava Nijinska’s Les Noches, and works by Chicago-based choreographers Jacqueline Stewart and Stephanie Martinez.

The company will close out the season with Rise from March 31-April 1 at the Overture Center’s 1098-seat Capitol Theater. “We haven’t done a mixed repertory at the Capitol in a few years,” explained Bourg. “It gives us the opportunity to do a bigger rep than we are able to do at the Bartell.” She said it will allow the season to “go out with a bang;” on the program are three of W. Earle Smith works and a Christopher Wheeldon pas de deux

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