War veterans dance through trauma

 

War veterans and company members from the Milwaukee Ballet will share the stage May 12-13, 7:30-9:30 p.m. at Danceworks, in a performance night called “Moving Beyond the Battlefield: an Arts Collaboration Among Veterans and Artists.”

Dance, with its emotional and physical connection to the body, can be healing and liberating, especially for people who have experienced trauma.

Professional dancer and choreographer Adam McKinney, 41, choreographed the piece “To Shining See.” It is a five-part piece with veterans and company members from the Milwaukee Ballet.

Adam McKinney

McKinney is a graduate of Bader Hillel Academy and began his dance training as a senior in high school at the Milwaukee Ballet School. “At Hillel Academy, I would choreograph dances at recess in 4th and 5th grade,” he said.

He holds a bachelor of fine arts in dance performance from Butler University and a master’s degree in dance studies with concentrations in race and trauma theories from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study in New York City. McKinney is a former member of the Milwaukee Ballet.

“When we are dealing with bodies — bodies hold trauma, bodies hold history. In this experience, I’ve been inviting veterans to open their bodies even before we get to talking about their experiences at war,” he said.

In the production of the piece, the dancers listened to the veterans share their personal stories of being at war. “In the studio, we spent a lot of time crying and feeling and supporting each other — to welcome each other,” McKinney said.

McKinney asked each veteran to “create a shape of his or her experience at war.” To make the dance a narrative, McKinney took their shapes and created what he called “movement phrases.”

The piece incorporates music by Georg Frideric Handel, Barbara Lewis, Grischa Lichtenberger, and electronic, astral and helicopter sounds. Students from Homestead High School and Nicolet High School participated in a poetry workshop, as they listened to the veterans’ stories. In the last section of the piece, dancers will dance to a spoken word poem.

“The young people and the veterans have really found a depth of community in each other that has been so glorious to watch,” McKinney said.

The performance night is a collaborative effort by local non-profits Lake Arts Project and Feast of Crispian.

McKinney is a co-director of DNAWORKS, an “arts and service organization committed to dialogue and healing through the arts,” according to the website. He has traveled within the U.S. and to Canada, England, Ghana, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Serbia, Spain and South Africa to lead dance seminars. “I’m thinking about what it means to be a Jew and the importance of welcoming strangers; to actually get on the ground with people, feeling and healing through dance as a means towards community building.”

How to go:

What: Moving Beyond the Battlefield: an Arts Collaboration Among Veterans and Artists

When: May 12-13, 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Where: Danceworks, 1661 N. Water St., Milwaukee

Visit link for tickets.