History

1975 Fresh faced local kids return from New York with a couple of good reviews –“likeable ingenuity…nicely conceived and well danced.” New York Times, and “Danced beautifully.” Dance Magazine. Called The Pandemonium DANCECIRCUS, concerts draw on New York artists for choreographers and musicians, and  engages local dancers (including Ferne Caulker-Bronson Artistic Director of Ko Thi Dance Company). Betty Salamun co-choreographs “Museum Pieces” with up and coming NY choreographer Rika Burnham at the Milwaukee Museum of Art, as it called at the time. This gallery performances become a National Endowment for the Arts funded video program “ARTSPHERES.”

1980   A small name change as the company is now called DANCECIRCUS (but local press will not print all capitalized letters). Betty Salamun’s passion for the environment becomes an artistic focal point for the company’s concerts, residencies and outreach programs. She is commissioned to develop a full-length version of “A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC” for the Burlington IA’s ALDO LEOPOLD: A Man for all Seasons festival. Then, during the height of national support for dance touring, DANCECIRCUS tours “A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC” to 5 states with funding from Chicago’s Joyce Foundation. An ongoing commitment to commissioning choreographers includes international choreographer Mark Morris and local choreographer Debra Loewen who both now direct their own companies. The DANCECIRCUS reputation for outreach-educational programs and residencies grows with inclusion in Young Audiences and being the first performing artists in the Wisconsin Arts Board Artist-In-Residence Programs.

1985   The company, now Betty Salamun and the DANCECIRCUS, thrills audiences with “exciting, powerfully convincing modern movement.” (Milwaukee Journal). As dance touring declines nationally, Betty Salamun works with local artists in a range of disciplines to create inter-arts and dance-theatre performances. Projects over three years with NY poet Joe Cardillo include a New York State Council on the Arts funded tour of “Wordprints.” Milwaukee County funds the MATRIX installation and dance performances in the new General Mitchell International Airport main concourse with visual artist Dennis Coffee. Betty Salamun and the DANCECIRCUS are in the middle of two 5 year residencies, one at Alverno College and the other at Robert Gard’s idea theatre school — Rhinelander School of the Arts, Rhinelander WI.

1990   Betty Salamun recreates “A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC” based on Aldo Leopold’s seminal ecological book.  This”…vocally eloquent, visually inventive blending of environment and athleticism set to a throbbing score.” (Milwaukee Journal) is “…a refreshing oasis of beauty and dedication” (Milwaukee Sentinel) to the environment. Betty begins adding her words and voice to performances using an evolving form of modern dance called ‘talk-dance’ which interacts with the written word as well as the audience. Talk-dance concepts also focus Betty’s development of Storycircles for projects in community agencies that empower people of all ages and races to tell their stories in word and dance.

1995 Now called Betty Salamun’s DANCECIRCUS, the company is a cultural partner with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s A.C.E. Program earning the highest evaluations for its interactive dance program. Storycircles projects develop into the GIVING VOICE Series of community/company performances. Betty, in collaboration with the Milwaukee Women’s Center and photographer Deone Jahnke, develop and perform “Keep Your Secrets” based on a folk tale. Wisconsin Arts Board fund three additional inter-arts projects to support and empower women in recovery at Milwaukee Women’s Center — then changes in W2 limits educational services. Listening to and re-telling the stories of holocaust survivors places Betty’s Storycircles project as a ‘featured program’ in the Corporation for National Service’s nationally published community arts workbook.

2000 The advertising slogan, “Sexy chicks and high kicks from Madison’s SMARTDANCE and Milwaukee’s DANCECIRCUS,” is banned by NPR station WUWM as “not within broadcast guidelines.” (The concert is a critical success.) Betty’s month long residency at The Yard, an artists’ retreat for dancers on Martha’s Vineyard, MA, includes an “eco-dance” residency with Edgartown Elementary School sixth grade students and inspires the creation of SOUND incorporating 25’ section of commercial fishing net found on a beach. Talk-dance projects expand as Betty writes and adapts scripts and directs company performances including:  SALT: Relics in Their Seasons, with One Drum Band;  editing Italo Calvino’s INVISIBLE CITIES with local composers of Crouton, and, writing “URBAN FOLKTALES” also with music by Crouton. With underwriting from CEO-II, Betty forms FEST DANCERS, summer program for high school students, which performs at 14 events. Solo works include popular performance-art pieces and personal dance-stories resonating with schools, churches and community groups, and performing in two of the acclaimed CON/struct series at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts.

2005 Shifting the name, again, DanceCircus moves forward with its successful programs in outreach, residencies and concerts emphasizing environmental programs, continuing to develop its stories and the stories of people in the community (Vincent Family Resource Center and Herb Society of Wisconsin collaboration). In this, our 30th season, DanceCircus collaborates with DEVANation, a quartet of women singer/musicians, and Joanna Graves, visual artist, to create Wade in the Water: The 70% Solution. “Wade” chronicles the history of the Great Lakes in dance inspired by the meditative found beach object art by Joanna and to the original compositions by DEVANation. Betty creates an original video, Current Affairs, for this production. A new program with The Benedict Center’s Women’s Program provides women in conflict with the judicial system an approach to change through art making.

2010 DanceCircus and partner Xalaat Africa produce the Youth Dance Company for five years as a summer dance and drumming program for teens with funding from the Wisconsin Arts Board Creative Communities, a three year grant from the Helen Bader Foundation, Inc., funding from the Meyer and Norma Ragir Foundation and the city of Milwaukee Arts Board. The four year “elemental concert” series concludes in Playing with Fire as the first concert series at DanceWorks Studio Theatre and includes fire-spinners performing outside. Visual artists expanded Betty’s movement imagery: Susan Lawton created a dancer controlled tornado for VORTEX (in Exposed to AIR); Anja Sieger created amazing shadow-puppets for Demons, Dragons and Shadows on the Wall and Sherrod Milewski painted stunning cloth panels to look like the aurora borealis for the dancers to manipulate in Solar Winds (both in LIGHTshadow concert). Residencies with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s A.C.E. Program and Arts @ Large continue to engage elementary students.

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