Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Economy, The Arts, and The Best of 2012

by Susan Kepecs
We’re falling off the fiscal cliff, only to face off with the debt ceiling leering up at us from the bottom. I blame it on Boehner, and GOP intransigence, but Obama – who just last week offered to limit cost of living adjustments to Social Security – desperately needs new talking points.  According to the historical sociologists we’re at the bottom of a 40 to 60-year economic cycle called the Kondratieff wave, named for the early twentieth-century Russian economist who first mapped out this repetitive pattern.  K-waves rise and decline on technological innovation.  The automobile wave cranked up in 1915; the IT wave started in ’70. Count it out. If long-term history’s any judge the only way the economy will rise again is if we invest heavily in new technology, setting off a brand-new boom.  I’d vote for ending oil and gas subsidies and re-tooling industry for green energy, wouldn’t you?
Meanwhile, the arts (and science – did you notice that Chicago’s Field Museum is slashing its research budget for 2013? are on a long, bumpy ride.  Thanks to the Overture Center’s ongoing slump that institution’s all but eliminated edgy programming in favor of Broadway touring productions and other mainstream pablum.  Not that it’s all bad – I enjoyed Jersey Boys (Overture Hall, Nov. 7-25) – but it means there’s less jazz, dance performance, and everything else I usually review.  Combine that with what the New York Times cleverly called the “Edifice Complex” on college campuses ( – the Wisconsin Union Theater’s been shut down for mammoth remodeling since May, and the smaller venues at its disposal till it reopens in fall, ’04, limit its possibilities – and you get a fairly thin year for the performing arts in Madison.  I attended fewer events than usual this year, and some of them were underwhelming.  
                    © SKepecs 2012
Instead of a top ten, I offer my super seven.  For the first time ever there’s only one dance performance on my best-of list – Madison Ballet’s Nutcracker (Overture Hall, Dec. 15-24).  Not because I love the holiday ballet (I don’t), but because this company has grown into a real a city treasure.  So much so, in fact, that despite the stagnant economy Madison Ballet is growing. The number of dancers in residence has increased.  For the first time since the Crash of ’08 Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker score was live (by the Madison Symphony Orchestra) rather than canned. And the company, which staged this sole production in 2012, has two new shows ( slated for spring. 
But six musical treats, all of which you can read more about by skimming CulturalOyster’s 2012 posts, deserve rave reviews.  In no particular order, they are:

                                                                   © SKepecs 2012
Ben Sidran’s Salon for Secular Humanists, Arch Democrats and Freethinkers, Tuesday afternoons at the Cardinal Bar from June (the first one was on Recall night) through August.  The weekly event brought out most of the city’s hippest grownups, plus a few very illustrious out of town guests.  Sidran’s intellectually and politically engaged talking hippie bebop blues – balm for the soul in the balmy, brain-scrambling summer of ’12 – put a backbeat on everything from Paul Ryan’s hypocrisy to the Higgs boson discovery, while his cosmic local quartet (Sidran on keys, Nick Moran on bass, Louka Patenaude on guitar and Todd Hammes on percussion) workshopped a set of brand new tunes for Sidran’s next album, Don’t Cry for no Hipster, due out (according to next month.

                                                                 © SKepecs 2012
Sierra Maestra, Wisconsin Union Theater at Memorial Union’s Great Hall, March 23.  The saviors of Cuban son, a nonet of major players straight from Havana, served up their celestial old-school tunes with extra saoco despite the iffy sound system in the venerable old space.  Some of the intricacies of this immortal music were muffled, but audience enthusiasm was far from dampened.  Classic guaracha and son montuno, mostly off the band’s latest album, Sonando Ya (SASA Music, 2010), morphed into monster descargas featuring jazzy flights of fancy anclados en clave, to the dancers’ delight. 

                                                               © SKepecs 2012
The Ninety Miles Project, Wisconsin Union Theater at Music Hall, Nov. 29.  Saxman Davíd Sánchez, trumpeter Nicholas Payton and vibraphonist Stefon Harris – players at the pinnacle of today’s bop – put together a lush and fluid pan-Afro-Latin sound.  Sometimes modal, quiet, slow and textured (Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way came to mind more than once), sometimes bright neo-bop, even occasionally almost classical, Ninety Miles was the epitome of new American music. Harris, mallets flying, scatted barely heard vocals as he plied his vibes.  Payton’s wailing, dissonant blues raised the spirits of history’s trumpet masters.  Sánchez, leaning back with iconic saxman attitude and dancing with his horn blew sweet, mournful solos.  Except when Cuban percussionist Mauricio Herrera called up the orishas to start the show, and once when Sánchez himself clapped out the clave – and for a guageo or two on the piano – the stellar Afro-Latin percussion section ran rumba, bomba, blues and subtler beats well beneath the melodic lines, leaving the three stunning frontmen free to find the abstract truth behind familiar rhythmic forms.

                                                        Fleck and Roberts         © SKepecs 2012
Bela Fleck’s on my list twice – first, for the sheer joy of the Original Flecktones reunion (Wisconsin Union Theater, March 1), featuring the return of Howard Levy on keyboards and harmonica, along with the triumvirate of Fleck, Futureman and Victor Wooten, and again with pianist Marcus Roberts and his superb, sophisticated straight-ahead trio (Rodney Jordan on bass, Jason Marsalis on drums) – a True Endeavors/Frank Production on Oct. 16 at Overture’s Capitol Theater.  The result of this latter, unlikely mix was both old-timey and new, a smooth and swingin’ blues / bebop / bluegrass groove. The harmonic convergence of banjo and piano was surprising, lighthearted and masterful, all at once. 

                                                                 © SKepecs 2012
Last but not least, El Clan Destino vive!  After its semi-hiatus the last several years this quartet of mighty Mad City musicos (Nick Moran on bass, Vince Fuh on keys, Frank Martínez on drums and Yorel Lashley on percussion) made a dazzling comeback at the Cardinal Bar -- check the Cardinal calendar  ( for this band’s sporadic Friday Happy Hour sets.  Clan Destino’s infinitely bailable, unbeatably brainy Afro-Cuban rock n’ roll jazz gets my 2012 Sabor Award.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Madison Ballet's Mostly Hilarious Nutty Nut

by Susan Kepecs
Lots of ballet companies across the country have taken to adding a Nutty Nut – a spoof on the beloved holiday ballet – to the long seasonal run.  Nutty Nuts run on top of the traditional production, shaking up the storyline, swapping out parts of Tchaikovsky’s score for other sounds, sending up the popular culture and featuring a few intrepid local non-dancer celebs to boot.  On Saturday, Dec. 22, in Overture Hall, Madison Ballet served up its first-ever Nutty Nut.  I went with a Grinchy chip on my shoulder.  What I really wanted (and still want) was a bold new approach to the standard show, instead of slapstick.  But parts of Nutty Nut made me laugh so hard there were tears in my eyes, and that’s a pretty cool Christmas present.
I was charmed by the start. In the orchestra pit, the Colonial Club Senior Band warmed up the audience.  Decked out in Santa suits and plying old-timey instruments – washtub bass, accordion, an assortment of bells and triangles – the Sun Prairie ensemble swung a set of chestnuts, among them “On Wisconsin,” “Roll Out the Barrel” and “Deck the Halls.”  To this bright pre-show accompaniment I read the dancers’ “bios” in the program, which had me rolling in the aisle.
The party scene, though – Wizard of Oz meets disco-era gay bar in Victorian drawing room – was dicey. Colonial Club Exec Director Bob Power, dressed as Dorothy, rocked his ruby slippers. The “YMCA” routine, while dated, drew its share of laughs from the audience.  But swapping the ballerina and soldier dolls for a trio of drag Barbies in hot pink swimsuits and platinum blond wigs was overkill. Doll alternatives are endless, but as the proud owner of an Aaron Rodgers bobblehead I submit that guys in green and gold jerseys, wearing wobbly masks and doing touchdown dances or Lambeau Leaps into the Stahlbaums’ grand staircase, would have been lovely. 
On the other hand the ice fisherman in the snow scene, sitting on his bait bucket downstage right, impassively wiggling his line into the orchestra pit and totally ignoring Marguerite Luksik’s and Brian Roethlisburger’s finely tuned snow pas going on right behind him, was brilliant.
I’ve always been a huge fan of the Nutcracker rats, and I adored the rat that rollerskated across the stage behind the snowflakes’ sweeping grand alegro.  
I had to stifle a colossal fit of laughter when the company’s ballet master, Sarah Melli, in pink bathrobe and slippers, hair powdered white, hobbled past the leaping snowflakes pushing a walker.
The “Dancing with the Stars” motif in Act II – featuring congressman-elect Mark Pocan and Madison Police Department spokesman Joel DeSpain as the judges, with WKOW TV morning news anchor Elishah Oesch as the host – needed punching up.  Given Donald Driver’s smashing success on the "Stars" show last spring, Packers dolls from the party scene would have fit right in.  As it was, the contestants – the Stahlbaums and another couple transported from the party scene – just stood there.  They should have taken a waltz around the stage before losing – natch – to Clara and her "peanut prince," whose Sugarplum pas, even in this spoof, was picture-perfect. 
Rachelle (Chocolandra) Butler must have had a few too many peeled grapes in her dressing room before her Merliton solo, since she stumbled on in fluffy pink bunny slippers that she had to take off and toss into the wings before turning in her ever-so-slightly hammy, though true to the original, danse en pointe.   
I started out with doubts when Shannon Quirk and Cody Olson, in black dance briefs, did the Arabian pas to Leon Russel’s “Song For You” (I’m not sure whose version was on the canned sound track).  But the fit was perfect, the effect clean and contemporary.  
I haven't a clue why artistic director W. Earle Smith picked Golden Girl Betty White to do the Russian solo.  But Phillip Ollenburg in pearls, wispy pale blonde wig and blue blouse, embroidering his big, bold ballet jumps with occasional arthritis attacks, was so supremely silly that he utterly stole the show.
Well, that and the Gangnam Style grand finale.  Betty White, Dorothy in ruby slippers, Clara in her Sugarplum tutu and pointe shoes and all the rest of the Madison Ballet cast shakin' up the PSY thing was truly goofy.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dance Review: Madison Ballet's Nutcracker, 2012

by Susan Kepecs
Madison Ballet’s Nutcracker is what it is – a traditional choreographic take on the ballet that’s become an American holiday staple and the cash cow for every company in the country – and, for lots of little kids, a first chance to perform onstage.  There are some very creative Nuts out there, and as the city gets more sophisticated about ballet – a trend that’s been a long time coming – I hope Madison Ballet’s version gets quirkier.  It’s worth mentioning that next Saturday night for the first time the company does its Nutty Nut, a comic, PG-rated one-shot that could be a first step toward shaking up the serious production in the future. 
For my annual dose of not-nutty Nutcracker, along with bunches of noisy small children I attended the opening matinee on Saturday, Dec. 15.  After surviving four years of canned music occasioned by the Crash of ’08, the addition of Maestro John DeMain and a stripped-down version of the Madison Symphony was an awakening.  Just hearing the orchestra warming up in the pit prior to the performance lent urban authenticity to the program, and during the ballet DeMain slanted Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous score toward the action onstage, bringing out some Nut nuances we haven’t seen for a while. 
Six seasons ago Madison Ballet went professional, but it was only last year – and with Nutcracker, no less (there are other, much more interesting works in the company’s repertory) – that it finally hit its stride. This year’s production, while not another leap forward, was almost as good.  I found nothing more than a few small nits to pick.  
The Snow and Flowers corps, composed of company members and upper-division students, were ocasionally out of synch – a recurring problem.
Marguerite Luksik, in her third year as the female lead, was as lovely as always.  A fast, precise turner, she excels at spinning toward her partner (the very efficient Brian Roethlisberger), then plunging into death-defying dips; she floats, feather-light, into overhead lifts; the phrasing in her variations is luxuriously elongated.  But I suspected a slight tiredness – there were moments in the Sugarplum pas her when stage smile felt forced. 
For the third year in a row, Smith set the long Merlitons divertissement, usually staged for two or three, as a solo.  But without a dancer of Luksik’s caliber to carry the role, that’s a mistake.  At the Saturday matinee Brittany Benington, in her second Madison Ballet Nutcracker, did the honors with technical accuracy. But the dance looked a bit stiff, as if in need of more breath.
These were the gems: company apprentice McKenna Collins sparkled as the female doll in the party scene, salting her flirty little waltz with flawless turns. 
 Jessica Mackinson is new to Madison Ballet this season; in practice clothes she looks more like a hard worker than a sparkling ballerina, so her vivacious, coquettish performance in the Spanish divertissement was a revelation. 
Phillip Ollenburg, a big, confident mover, brought his usual brio to the Russian solo, charging the atmosphere with his flashy cabrioles, triple pirouettes, ample coupe jeté turns and huge second position, toe-touching split jumps.
Yu Suzuki and Jacob Ashley (formerly known as Jacob Brooks) turned in a superb Arabian pas, the savoriest I’ve seen yet from Madison Ballet.  Ashley stretched Yu into a split, then wrapped her around his waist. She twined sinuously around his body, like a snake, then unfolded into a double attitude, seated on his hip. She teased; she slinked across the stage, Ashley in pursuit.  He caught her triumphantly, lifting her high overhead and netting a loud “Bravo!” from the audience.
I had a lump in my throat throughout Waltz of the Flowers, watching Genevieve Custer-Weeks, who’s retiring from the stage and who I’ve known for many years, celebrate her final performance as the Dewdrop.  It was a pleasure to see her, regal as always, boureeing in circles sprinkling dew on the appreciative blooms and luxuriating in those long-legged, high-flying grand jetés for which we’ll always remember her.  
Custer-Weeks as Dewdrop, 2012                                © SKepecs

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hometown Ballerina Steps Down from the Stage

    Custer-Weeks as Dewdrop                                                   ©Andrew Weeks   
by Susan Kepecs
Madison Ballet’s 2011 Nutcracker definitively marked the company as a fully developed, bona fide arts organization that would do any mid-size city proud; this year’s production (Overture Hall, Dec. 15-24), which may be even better, is special in a different way.  Madison-born ballerina Genevieve Custer-Weeks, whose professional career stretched from here to Chicago to California, will be the company’s first principal / soloist to retire from the stage. Custer-Weeks, a master of nuanced musicality and interpretive skill, performs the Dewdrop solo choreographed for her by Madison Ballet artistic director W. Earle Smith in 2004, for his Nutcracker’s debut in the brand-spanking new Overture Hall.  It’s painful to see a favorite dancer retire, but Dewdrop’s the perfect cap to an excellent career.  Custer-Weeks’ very first stage performance – as a Nutcracker bonbon (in Smith’s production the little bonbons are called puchinellas) – occurred 22 years ago, next door to Overture Hall in the old Oscar Mayer Theatre.  If you haven’t been here long enough to remember, today that venue is Overture’s beautifully restored Capitol Theater.
“Most people don’t get to tie it up that neatly – to have a career that comes so full circle,” says Custer-Weeks. 
A look back at that circle is obviously in order.

Ballerinas usually retire between 29 and 34; Custer-Weeks, who’s 30, is right on schedule.  “It just feels like its time,” she says. “I feel sad, but that’s good – I want to be sad about leaving the stage.”  
It’s a sentimental experience for Smith, who started working with Custer-Weeks when she was 16, too.  “Up until now,” he says, “it’s been me and all my peers retiring.  This is the first dancer who’s worked substantially with me who’s stepping down.  It makes me feel old, but more importantly it’s a passing of the baton. It’s very touching and emotional – I didn’t think it would affect me the way it has.  We have a great bond.  I love Genevieve as a dancer, as a person, as a friend.
Smith choreographing Cinderella
on Custer-Weeks  ©SKepecs
Smith’s most cherished memory from this long association comes from Madison Ballet’s first production of Cinderella, in 2005. “I choreographed the title role on Genevieve and for her,” he says.  “In those days all I had in terms of local dancers was a pre-professional studio company.  Genevieve was on contract then with Oakland Ballet, and I brought her in as a guest artist. Because I knew her so well it was very special to be able to coach her in a major role.  It was a huge deal for Genevieve, too, because it was the first time she’d performed a principal role in her home town, and she had to carry the whole ballet by herself.  She was very nervous, and I was very proud.  Not many ballerinas can say they’ve done a lead role in a full-length ballet.”
By the time Custer-Weeks met Smith, she was a polished dancer; her training began in Madison, with Kate McQuade and Charmaine Ristow, and then, when she turned 14, with Daniel Duell at the prestigious pre-professional academy Ballet Chicago.  Duell was impressed.  “Genevieve arrived at the School of Ballet Chicago, already a skilled dancer and a naturally expressive artist,” he says.  “It didn’t take long for me to be inspired by her for choreography.  Within a few months I created on her the Arabian solo that remains intact in our Nutcracker to this day.  After that, Genevieve performed many principal, soloist and ensemble roles in the demanding repertoire of the Ballet Chicago Studio Company.  As a dancer she showed great diversity and a deep understanding of how to deliver a role onstage. 
“It was always a particular pleasure to choreograph on Genevieve,” Duell continues. One of his fondest memories was making a solo for her to the Prelude from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier.  Genevieve's strong, soft pointe work, her beautifully flowing movement quality, and her deeply expressive artistry lit up every moment and made this celestial piece all it could be.” 
Her retirement, Duell concludes, “means the loss of a uniquely expressive artist from the dance world.  Her grace and warmth will be a permanent memory for me, as well as for all audiences who have seen her perform.” 
              Having grown up in the Midwest, Custer-Weeks went west -- in 2002 she signed with Oakland Ballet, then under the artistic direction of Karen Brown, former principal ballerina at Dance Theatre of Harlem.  "Genevieve was a delight to work with at Oakland Ballet," Brown says.  "When considering hiring her I called Daniel Duell, whom I'd known during his performance career at New York City Ballet.  He assured me that the attributes that attracted me during her audition -- style, grace, talent and enthusiasm -- were constants.  My fondest memory is the way she was always fully engaged in exploring the nuances of characterization in the diverse works presented by Oakland Ballet.  That was never more evident than in the creation of Ella -- a world premiere tribute to the musical genius of Ella Fitzgerald choreoraphed by five-time Tony-nominated choreographer Donald McKayle, with music by celebrated jazz composer Marcus Shelby and live performances by Ledisi.  Genevieve's character in the pas de trois with Preston Dugger and Sara Hayes went from sultry to seductive, to protective to vulnerable and demanding.  I wish her the best in "retirement," and I am proud that she has found a way to share her talent and artistry with others."

Custer-Weeks shared her own “top ten” reminiscences with me in an interview last week.
In Concerto Barocco (center)
“With Ballet Chicago we got to do an incredible amount of Balanchine repertory, so as a teen I was doing Concerto Barroco, Serenade, Apollo, Stars and Stripes – ballets people kill to dance.  In particular, I feel like I grew up in Concerto Barroco. I danced it my entire time there, in different roles, so I could feel the evolution – it taught me so much! 
“When I started doing Dewdrop here, I was still at Ballet Chicago.  I was 16, and it was the first version of the solo in the current Nutcracker production.  I haven’t done it every single year – I’ve taken breaks and come back to do it again.  I’ve never had anything else like that – a role I’ve danced so much over time.  You get really comfortable, which gives you a lot of freedom – you can really play with something like that. 
“Another work that’s close to my heart is the Bach Prelude Dan Duell choreographed on me – I was dancing professionally and went back to Ballet Chicago as a guest.  It appeared to be so simple – you just step up on pointe and roll down – but it required such control!  It taught me a lot, and it was a pleasure to be a grownup and be back in the studio with Dan. 
Titania in Midsummer, 2011
 © Andrew Weeks
“I’ve loved the Titania role in Peter Anastos’ Midsummer Night’s Dream – I’ve done that three  times over the years with Madison Ballet. I danced in a version of Midsummer as a kid, and it seemed so magical – I was enchanted by all the fairies in the forest then, and years later it was enchanting to be on the other side as a professional dancer.
“The whole time I was at Oakland Ballet [2002-2006] was special, but in Donald Kayle's ballet Ella, choreographed for the company’s 40th Anniversary [fall, 2005], I was in a pas de trois to “Begin the Beguine. ”  It was incredible – a very different style than I was used to.  It’s always fun when a new choreographer comes in and does something new on you.  I was doing classical repertory at Oakland and I don’t think the directors saw me doing very saucy stuff like that – it was really fun.  [It's worth noting that like Karen Brown, Bay Area reviewer Toba Singer was impressed, lauding Custer-Weeks’ “unflinching precision, attack and verve” in this dance].
“Actually, the whole experience of Oakland’s 40th anniversary program was a highlight.  There were excerpts from Bronislava Nijinska’s famous works originally choreographed for Ballets Russes in the 1920s.  One of our ballet masters there was an expert on setting those pieces.  I was the bride in an excerpt from Les Noces, and I understudied the female lead in Les Biches.  And I got to be one of the dancehall girls in Billy the Kid.  It was like living what you read in the dance history books – really special.” 

Night Dances (Custer-Weeks in front)
© Andrew Weeks
Oakland went on hiatus during the 2004-05 season, which interrupted Custer-Weeks’ career there.  She started freelancing, which she’s done ever since.  The Overture Center opened in fall of ‘04, and Smith choreographed “Night Dances” for the inaugural gala.  
“Night Dances” was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” says Custer-Weeks.  “Having grown up here, and performing with big-name soloists – it was such a huge deal I was afraid I might pass out on stage.  I was dancing with Sandy Brown, Margo McCann and Michael Clark, and then I did the solo in the second movement – it opens with a lot of jumps and then everyone leaves and you’re just out there alone, standing in B-plus and hoping the conductor waits for you.  It looked light and fun but it was full of jumps and turns – I never stopped moving.  I was really proud of it, but it was maybe the most nervous I’ve ever been. Marcelo Gomes was here for that, too, to do the White Swan pas de deux with Sandy – he said nice things about my solo to Earle, which made my life, ‘cause I think he’s incredible.
“That same season, I also did Dracula with Inland Pacific Ballet for the first time [the second was in 2007].  My favorite thing about Dracula was the chance to work with the choreographer, Arturo Fernández.  He has an incredible style, influenced by Alonzo King [Fernández is the ballet master at LINES] but also very much his own. I loved every minute of the chance to step so far outside my comfort zone, both choreographically and in terms of the character I was playing – one of Dracula’s brides. 
Cinderella (2010)    ©Andrew Weeks   
“Also during that season – spring of ’05 – Earle choreographed Cinderella.  That’s a highlight for sure. Titania in Midsummer’s a great role, you get to be a principal, but you’re not carrying the whole story like you are in Cinderella. Right before the opening, I burst into tears.  That first time, David Bier and I were the only principals – the rest of the dancers were all in the studio company.  It’s so different now that Madison Ballet is a professional company.  I love that ballet – Cinderella starts in bare feet, and then you put on your pointe shoes and there’s a pas de deux, a solo, another pas de deux. Last time we did it [March, 2010] was the third time, and for me maybe the most intimidating, because it was my first stage performance after my son Sullivan was born. But by then I had all this affection for the character, and such a strong sense of the story I wanted to tell – I remember very clearly how the first performance of that run really clicked.  It was extraordinary.
Tiger Lily                                          © Andrew Weeks
“I was Tiger Lily in Earle’s Peter Pan – he only did that ballet once, in ’08, between the second and third productions of Cinderella.  It was different from other things I’d done with Earle – very neoclassical.  It reminded me of Balanchine’s Stravinsky ballets.  And Tiger Lily is very fierce.  I loved the strength of the character. 
“Some of the most fun I’ve had onstage was two years ago in Madison Ballet’s repertory show, “Evening of Romance.  I did the first solo in the last piece, "Expressions," with Jan Wheaton and her trio live onstage – the song was “Can’t Help Lovin’ that Man of Mine.”  It’s hard to get to that place in performance where you’re completely relaxed, but it happened, probably because I’d done a nine-minute solo earlier in the evening.  There was just this jazz band onstage and it felt very organic and natural, and I really enjoyed doing it.”

Ok, that’s eleven stories, not ten. Let’s make it a dozen – come cheer on Custer-Weeks as she delights her hometown audience one last time.  And yes, there’s more ballet fabulousness in her future, though of a slightly different sort.  Not all retired dancers stay close to the field, but in 2008 Custer-Weeks, who lives in the Bay Area with her husband, photographer Andrew Weeks, and son Sullivan, now three and a half, opened the Tutu School – ballet for tiny tots and kids to age eight.  Right now there are two Tutu Schools, in San Francisco and Larkspur (Marin County).  Kids love it – the reviews on just glow – and Tutu School Franchises just launched this fall.  Bringing the fairytale ballet dreams of new generations to fruition will undoubtedly keep Custer-Weeks on her toes for years to come.