Milwaukee Ballet returns to stage with limited audience

Live performance has returned to Milwaukee, and the Milwaukee Ballet is the first to head back to the stage.

The City of Milwaukee eased restrictions, allowing 25% capacity at public gatherings earlier this month. And the ballet got to work, opening a new show on Feb. 25 -- one of the first companies in the U.S. to welcome back a live audience.

The relevé feels different when there is applause on the other side.

"It’s great. It’s what we live for. It’s what we train all of our lives for," said Lahna Vanderbush, Milwaukee Ballet leading artist.

Lahna Vanderbush

Milwaukee Ballet is allowing 50 people to attend per show. Each audience member has their temperature checked at the door, and each ticket has a designated entrance to keep people from crossing paths.

For Christine Culver, Saturday was her first live show since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic -- and it fell on her birthday.

"It’s one of our favorite things to do, and it’s just exciting that we’re finally here again, face masks and all," Culver said.

Temperature check as guests enter the Milwaukee Ballet

The ballet's 60-minute show, titled "To the Pointe," is designed to show off the technique the company has worked to keep up while the doors were closed.

"It really showcases the subtleties of classical ballets," Vanderbush said.

Milwaukee Ballet performs, returning to the stage amid the COVID-19 pandemic

The 100 hands clapping feel like a thousand after months of silence.

"I feel like I hear more joy from them than just a regular performance that we used to, because I think they’ve been deprived of live performances as much as we have," said Vanderbush.

"To the Pointe" runs through March 7. It is also available on-demand for people who do not feel comfortable yet returning to the theater.

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