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Milwaukee Ballet Offers Free Viewing of Professional Ballet Classes for Summer Outreach

Milwaukee Ballet is sharing dance with the community. Photo by Timothy O'Donnell, courtesy of Milwaukee Ballet

Is summer the time for dancing in the streets? It is for Milwaukee Ballet.

Though many dance companies are on layoff during July, Milwaukee Ballet just embarked on a new community outreach initiative called Ballet Beat. Over the next three weeks, the company will present a variety of free ballet-related activities that will culminate in an outdoor performance.


But before the dancers hit the stage they–of course–must hit the barre. During Ballet Class: Watch and Learn events, the public can observe Milwaukee Ballet members warming up and working through that essential element of a dancer's life: ballet class.

"Anytime you can give people a behind-the-scenes look at what the life of a professional dancer is like, you have the opportunity to educate them about how this artform is artistic and athletic," says Alyson Chavez, Milwaukee Ballet's director of community engagement.

Photo by Timothy O'Donnell

"Sometimes, people who are new to ballet don't see the dancers or the artform as relatable or relevant," she explains. "We think that by showing them the dancer's regimen up close and allowing them to see the sweat and work involved really changes people's perspective. They suddenly see that these are artists working hard, and it becomes more real."

But viewers will also get to experience ballet with a little lesson of their own. "We add in an interactive part where we teach the audience the positions of the feet and arms," Chavez says. "It gets them moving and shows them that ballet is not as easy as the professionals make it look."

Ballet Class: Watch and Learn events will take place on July 11 at 11:30 am at Intercontinental Milwaukee, and July 24, 25 and 26 at 12 pm at the Peck Pavilion at Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.


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I often teach ballet over Zoom in the evenings, shortly after sunset. Without the natural light coming from my living room window, I drag a table lamp next to my portable barre so that the computer's camera can see me clearly enough. I prop the laptop on a chair taken from the kitchen and then spend the next few hours running back and forth between the computer screen of Zoom tiles and my makeshift dance floor.

Much of this setup is the result of my attempts to recreate the most important aspects of an in-person dance studio: I have a barre, a floor and as much space as I can reasonably give myself within a small apartment. I do not, however, have a mirror, and neither do most of my students.

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