Hoppy Easter

Happy Easter!

No, no, I’m not a day late and a dollar short on the classic Easter greeting. This might be old news to most of you reading or listening to this since I know you’re all pure of heart and wise beyond measure, but Easter Sunday is special not only for the abundance of delicious hard boiled eggs and jelly beans, but also because it is the actual start of the Easter Season. I was a late learner about the actual Easter Season kicking off with Easter Sunday, something I was gently advised upon by a kind liturgical guide who never, ever admonished me for years of being an unrepentant heathen. Now I embrace the full majesty of the Easter season as it trails forward from that Sunday in spring when an industrious bunny rabbit litters carpets in homes with fake plastic grass while making deliveries of milk chocolate to good boys and girls across the land.

No trails of fake plastic grass were apparent in the Pfister lobby as I recently met a young rabbit kicking up her heels with her doting parents. My introduction was less than smooth, and this is where I embrace the fact that Easter is all about redemption and renewal.

“I couldn’t help but notice your pig ears,” I said as I introduced myself to Lindsay.

Smiling from the deepest place in her heart, Lindsay corrected me.

“These are my rabbit ears. For Easter.”

I tried to avoid turning a deep shade of red from embarrassment, and think I might have contained my humiliation to the sort of bright pink you might see on a newly dyed egg ready to be put into service for a hunt. Lindsay and her folks Joanne and Paul had come to the Pfister because Lindsay had faired particularly well in a weekend competition. Lindsay, it seems, is a dancer.

“In our competition we do tap, jazz, modern, hip hop…” The list continued on and on. Lindsay’s feet clearly have never failed her and her recent accomplishments had been awarded with a trophy. Her many achievements were now being enjoyed with her family at their favorite spot—the Pfister.

“This is a special place for us,” said Joanne, Lindsay’s mom. “It’s a place that has meant a lot to us over the years, and we come here as a family because everyone welcomes us so warmly.”

“The Pfister is a spot where we as a family can come and everyone can feel real comfort. Everything is good here,” added Paul. “We have become friends with so many of the staff…Mr. Roc, Mr. Peter, Ms. Helga.” Paul told me of the many tales the Pfister’s esteemed concierge staff have shared with his lovely family over the years, the sort of stories you share with friends near and dear to your heart.

I asked Lindsay what her favorite sort of dance was and she seemed to grow a few inches taller as she beamed back at me and said, “I love ballet.” Though she doesn’t perform ballet in her dance competitions, ballet is the basis for all she does as a dancer, the foundation upon which she builds her talents. It struck me on the cusp of Easter that this young woman wearing the set of floppy bunny ears had at an early, early age understood a very important fact of life. When you have a strong foundation, everything else in your life has a chance to flourish and grow.

I was curious about Lindsay’s long-term dreams as a dancer, but also the place where she would most like to take a few spins in the Pfister. I hope I get to see the answer to both of those questions come to life in years to come.

“I want to be a dancer for the Milwaukee Ballet, and dance through the Imperial Ballroom here at the Pfister,” said Lindsay. Her proud and loving parents looked on as this confident and charming young lass smiled from rabbit ear to rabbit ear. Ballet may be a good foundation for Lindsay’s future dreams, but it’s clear that she has any even stronger foundation in life. Their names, as you might have guessed, are Paul and Joanne, and they love their little bunny very, very much.

Follow me on Twitter @jonathantwest for more smart remarks and snappy retorts.

Pints, Pointes and Pfister Narrator

There are certain perks to being the Pfister Narrator and having the opportunity to interview Milwaukee Ballet Company dancers is one of them. Last week, I attended a rehearsal at the Milwaukee Ballet to learn about the upcoming Genesis performance and international choreography competition. This competition only comes around every other year and brings some of the best talent from around the world right here to Milwaukee.

Because the Third Coast Digest shares the same commitment to the arts in Milwaukee as the Pfister Hotel, we partnered up to bring you a preview of the three dances that will premiere at Genesis on February 7-10. The winning choreographer will return to create a second dance for the Milwaukee Ballet’s 2014 series at the Pabst. Because of my affiliation with RadioMilwaukee, I will also be DJing the Pints before Points party this Thursday at 6 p.m. at the InterContinental (the modern step-sister to the Pfister) before the opening night of Genesis. See what the dancers have to say in the video below and hope to see you there!

Dancers Sparkle Across the 7th Floor

 

 

Dancers perform for the judges. More than five couples usually share the dance floor. The elaborate network of temporary overhead lighting ensures that all is seen.

This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of the Wisconsin Dancesport Championships. The company has a long history with the hotel as they’ve held the annual event at the Pfister all these years. This high-heeled party brings dancers from across the country to compete at their specialized steps.

It is interesting to see the dancers’ posture and gait change depending upon which dance is announced. For example, to an untrained eye (mine) the tango appears stiff and exacting. The foxtrot takes on a more sly, playful, and sensual body movement. During waltzes dancers’ bodies become languid and graceful, flowing toward the next position. Dancers are on display everywhere across the 7th floor in varying stages of preparation, warm-up, cool down, and rushed focus to perform last minute wardrobe alterations. There are rumbas, cha chas, jazz dances, solos, the jitterbug, salsa dances. The list goes on to nearly every dance you’ve ever (or some, in my case, never) heard of. During competition fellow dancers between heats applaud and cheer for their friends and colleagues.

An impromptu city of vendors springs up wherever dance competitions take place. They are prepared to satisfy all of the dancers potential needs from shoes to outfits and photo/videography. I spoke with the shoe vendor in the foreground and she observed that she would likely spend one week at home this month.

 

Between competition dancers relax and recharge throughout the cafe and lobby lounge. The women wear makeup which reminds me of my theater days and the men stand at attention as suitors with impeccable posture. Coaches critique improvements necessary before the next time they hit the floor. The vibe is that of a large extended theater company from all walks of life.

My favorite part was to watch the shadows swim across the dance floor as dancers moved in and out of the light.

One can’t help but wonder about the impact shows such as So You Think You Can Dance have had on these competitions. I would imagine the larger exposure of dance offered to the modern lexicon has brought an influx of new blood in to the dance community.

Shadows of fabric tornado across the wood floor.
Each dress is designed to be more eye catching than the last. Men's pants are loose and look comfortable but I imagine serve the purpose of accentuating leg movements.

 

Artist Timothy Westbrook's costume display on the 7th floor. Could celluloid cassette tape be the new sequin?

 

I tried to imagine any other environment where an event such as a ballroom dance championship could be held that would be as fitting as the Pfister Hotel. Nothing came to mind, except possibly some fantastical land which exists only in a poet’s imagination. Standing amidst the assembled bustle of  thoroughbred peacock dancers which have taken up residence inside of the crown jewel of the Marcus family, the two feel so fitting you wonder where the dance stops and the hotel begins and vice versa. The delineation between stage and spectator blurs to a point that the fray is as much a part of the experience.

Swing dance high steppers.

 

 

A brick and mortar structure can be lovely standing by itself but without the people to breathe a kiss of life into it’s hallways, it is just a pile of well placed bricks, doors, and floors. The unique events and personalities passing through these doors create the personality of the Pfister Hotel, possibly even more so than this lovely house which Guido and Charles built.

 

Shelby Keefe’s UPAF Artist Amoung Us Project

Our current Artist In Residence, Shelby Keefe, is about to embark on another special project staring March 1st.

Shelby will create a special 12” x 12″ painting for UPAF and each of its member groups.

These 16 paintings will happen over the course of the 16 days. This collaboration represents a unique opportunity for the performing arts to shine in a visual arts platform and to highlight the diversity our arts groups have to offer our region.

The complete schedule of paintings are as follows:

March 1: Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra

March 2: Bel Canto Chorus

March 3: Milwaukee Repertory Theater
March 4: First Stage

March 5:  Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

March 6: Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

March 7: Milwaukee Public Theatre

March 8: Renaissance Theaterworks

March 9: Milwaukee Children’s Choir 

March 10: Skylight Music Theatre

March 11: Present Music

March 12: Danceworks, Inc.
March 13: Next Act Theatre

March 14: Milwaukee Ballet
March 15: Florentine Opera

March 16: United Performing Arts Fund

As always, you’re invited to watch Shelby work in her studio at The Pfister throughout the process.

All of the paintings will be on view at UPAF’s campaign kick-off on Wednesday, April 4, at the Harley-Davidson Museum and the 16 paintings will be auctioned in June at a UPAF fundraising event.

Please check back frequently to see Shelby’s progress. For more information about the project please visit our website.

UPAF talk by ShelbyK