Forever Young: Milwaukee Ballet's New Dorian Gray

O'Donnell as Dorian Gray. Photo by Nathaniel Davauer, Courtesy Milwaukee Ballet.

 

Milwaukee Ballet artistic director Michael Pink's imaginative versions of narratives-turned-ballets have garnered him a second title: master storyteller. His latest adaptation, based on Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, is the haunting story of a man who stays young as a portrait of himself grows old. The ballet runs through Feb. 21. For Pointe's bi-weekly newsletter, we spoke with company artist and choreographer-in-residence Timothy O'Donnell about playing Dorian.

How did you prepare?

I read Oscar Wilde's novel, and it was like a book club at work for a while. Michael was very clear that he wanted this to be a reflection of the original novel and not someone else's take on that, so I stayed away from all the Hollywood adaptations.


How do you get into character before the show?

I have to start out in a pretty good mood. Dorian goes through everything so deeply. There's romance but also tragedy. After the ballet, I feel completely spun out. It's like waking up from a terrible dream because I've been through so many heightened emotions.


The ballet features an actor who plays Lord Henry and serves as a narrator. What's it like adding him to the mix?

It's been fascinating. He's 100 percent incorporated into the show, which led to some of the most complicated scenes, like the rejection pas de deux with Sibyl Vane. Dorian decides he doesn't love her anymore. The interaction among the three of us was so difficult to put together since Lord Henry is talking while we're dancing. It took hours and hours and hours to create a four-minute pas de deux.


 

Since this is a new production, do you find it daunting or inspiring?

This is the best for me. My favorite thing to do is to be part of something that's fresh and still has room to evolve. There's always the normal fear of am I going to do my steps well, but I'm super-confident in this production.

 

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