Behind the Scenes: Milwaukee Ballet

Behind the Scenes: Milwaukee Ballet

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Milwaukee Ballet has been bringing art to life on stage for more than a half-century. In addition to its main company dancers, the ballet is home to the next generation of dancers. The Milwaukee Ballet's Second Company, MBII for short, is comprised of young dancers from around the world who train and perform for the ballet in pursuit of a professional career.

As part of CBS 58's new series "Behind the Scenes," Mike Strehlow spent an afternoon with MBII just 24 hours before their big show, called "Momentum."

"It's been a long time building up, which is very exciting when you get to this moment," said dancer Sophia Shahani as she and 22 other MBII dancers wrapped up a dress rehearsal.

The California native, who comes from a family of ballet artists and has been training since age five, says, "You have to make it look easy and seamless to the audience watching."

The production is staged in an intimate, black box theater that seats 200 guests inside the Baumgartner Center for Dance, the Milwaukee Ballet's headquarters in the Historic Third Ward.

"The audience is very, very close to you. The lights are closer as well," Shahani said.

What the audience doesn't see are other theater professionals working their magic behind the scenes, as stage and company manager Cecilia de Erausquin supports the dancers, director, designer and other creative minds behind the production.

"I like to think of my job as being the nitty gritty and all of the details in order to let all of their artistry shine," she says.

In the costume shop, the stitching and steaming takes place before, during and after dress rehearsal. From their shoulder straps down to their shoes, Lyn Kream's team will "fix any concerns that the dancers have."

Kream is the Milwaukee Ballet's draper and costume coordinator. The costume shop has outfits that date back to the ballet's first production more than 50 years ago. The shoe room is also very organized.

Kream says, "Dancers, when their shoes die, they need new shoes. Come in here and....kind of have a library system. You give me a dead shoe, you get a new shoe."

On stage, Davit Hovhannisyan is watching the dancers' every move and taking notes.

"Now that I work with them closely, I can see myself awhile back as I started," says Hovhannisyan, who is now the rehearsal director of the MBII after a distinguished, 20-year career as the Milwaukee Ballet's leading dancer.

He says, "Our MB2 dancers are very just eager to learn, they're there in the morning and ready to work and they love it."

The examples of teamwork we witnessed behind the scenes and on stage are lifting these up-and-coming artists on their journey to a professional career in ballet.

Shahani said, "It's something very special when you all get together and can create this art form that you all understand and love and the audience can feel that too."

The MBII company will perform Momentum Saturday, March 2 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Baumgartner Center for Dance, and Saturday, April 28 at 2 p.m. at the Manitowoc Franciscan Music Center.

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