A live performance can be classy. A live performance can be whimsical. It takes a special kind of show to be both at the same time for a full hour without feeling strained. Svadba-Wedding nails it perfectly. There’s dance. There’s singing. It’s classy. It’s fun. Seeing a show this perfectly split between two worlds feels pretty rare. Going to The Best Place for a show like this isn’t exactly like spotting a unicorn. (That would be too precious. This is much cooler than that.) It’s more like...catching your garden gnome wearing a tuxedo and humming Beethoven's Ninth: Classy. But whimsical.
Words, melodic tones and the occasional bit of emotional syncopation deliver a funky kind of play ethic to the performance energy that feels totally fantastic, earthbound, delightfully abstract and utterly relatable all at once. Jubilant energy cascades through The Best Place tavern as Wild Space Dance Company and Milwaukee Opera Theatre present Svabda-Wedding—a little champaign toast of operatic dance in a snug space. Stage Director Jill Anna Ponasik shuffles the energy throughout a stage-less space in a cleverly deft fusion of dance and vocals. Ponasik and Choreographer Debra Loewen use the space at The Best Place with as much attention to silence and empty space as they do to action, motion and melody.
Before a Wedding
Yeah, it’s opera and modern dance, but don’t worry: the story is simple. An all-woman cast of dancers and singers prepare for a wedding. There is excitement, casual socialization, hair and make-up and gossip and even a bachelorette moment shared by everyone at the bar. (The casual grace of a dancer clenching a PBR tumbler in her teeth was a nice touch given the venue, as is the experience of seeing the entire ensemble head over to the bar.) The vocals are Serbian (with music and libretto by contemporary Serbian-born Canadian composer Ana Sokolović), but the cast delivers uninhibited emotion to the stage with such electric expression that the vocals mean more in sound than they ever could in word. The exact meaning of what's being said would likely feel kind of clumsy next to this much grace. (Music,motion and emotion always find ways of being more graceful than words.)
Now I Want To See Them Doing Other Things
There’s a tremendous amount of rehearsal and planning that goes into a show like this. With a show like this, though...you don’t want to see all that. Ponasik and Loewen have done a remarkable job of delivering a totally compelling reality to the stage in song and movement. The fact that it’s also quite contemporary and relatable means that it’s also going to invite insight into casual human moments beyond the performance.
I know it’s not the case, but there’s some part of me that really wants this to be the way things always are when operatic singers and dancers hang out together. Here they’re getting ready for a wedding, but I could see the same grace, poise, playful melody with this same group of characters while they’re...doing laundry. (Or even their taxes.) I want to believe that this same group casually gets together to buy groceries or hang out at the beach or whatever and it’s every bit as graceful and melodic as it is here in performance. They're coloring their hair and they're getting dressed and engaging in small talk and so on. It all feels so gracefully organic. It’s such a nice reality that they’ve brought to The Best Place. You may not want to live there, but it would be difficult to walk out of Svadba-Wedding and not want to return to hang out with the ensemble after the wedding.
Dancers Sharing Moments with Singers and Each Other
The emotion flowing through the ensemble feels subtly authentic. It’s not often that an audience has an opportunity to get this close to dance. The intimacy is a huge challenge for any performer as any inauthenticity in emotion can crush the energy...and every face in the ensemble is almost conversationally close to some of the audience throughout the performance, so there isn’t much room for a performer to hide. The ensemble is incredibly vivid with the emotion. Look closely and you can see dancers sharing moments of emotional connection that goes well beyond the performance to reach right into the heart of human connection. It’s so amazing to see the subtle interplay of dancers making eye contact and really connecting. You don’t generally see that in a formally staged dance performance. It’s hard not to feel the energy of that, particularly as each character is so totally distinct. Everyone in the ensemble is bringing something distinctly different to the show.
Two More Performances
Svadba-Wedding has two more performances: tonight, May 9th and tomorrow night the 10th. Both performances are at the Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery. Both performances start at 7:30 p.m. The show runs for an hour. (I did mention that it was an hour long, didn't I? Anyway...it's an hour long.)
You have two nights. Then the garden gnome stops wearing the tux and goes back to his usual attire. Spot this one while you can. It’s amazing. For ticket reservations, visit Brown Paper Tickets online.
And Right Next Door...
Also at the Best Place this week in a neighboring performance space: Shakespeare Raw’s AS YOU LIKE IT. Boozy Bard hosts another sketchy Shakespeare show right next door to the wedding at the Best Place. So cool to see a couple of shows like this on the edges of downtown. There's one more performance...tonight only.