Thursday, November 4, 2010



By Nancy Condit

Oklahoma City Ballet presented the best of its original story ballets last Saturday night, October 30th, 2010, at the Civic Center.  Based on Gaston Leroux’ novel, The Phantom of the Opera, under the artistic direction of Robert Mills, was well choreographed by Jacob Sparso, who choreographed The Wizard of Oz and is also ballet master. 

Sparso’s use of straight, clean lines throughout the ballet, but especially noted with the Phantom, Ronnie Underwood, created the drama of the dance, especially with Underwood’s complete extensions, and the height of his leaps.
Anton Iakovlov‘s very good dancing, especially in his fight scene with the Underwood, more than met the evening’s expectations for drama.  He danced the role of Raoul, Christine’s childhood friend and, ultimately, her fiance.
Miki Kawamura performed well in the delicate role of Christine. She and Underwood were particularly effective when Underwood lifted her straight up by her upper arms and carried her to another part of the stage, as he tried to tell her how much he was attracted to her and she continued to withdraw.
Stephanie Foraker Pitts charmingly performed the role of prima ballerina Carlotta with as much petulance as diva.
The company as a whole performed well, and is dancing even better this season. 
In all, the men particularly have improved over the last two years.
The small dances within the ballet, performed by “the Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet” – the company,  and the “Students from the Paris Opera Ballet” – danced by children, included rehearsals on stage -- exercises at the barre and floor exercises, to the wonderful dance of the students at the masquerade ball where they were dressed as cupids with gold bows, light pink costumes and short white curly wigs and  the Spanish dance on stage at the Paris Opera.
Sparso choreographed a tighter story ballet that gaves a look at nineteenth century ballet life on stage and behind the curtain, with charming interludes of dance while maintaining the tension of the Phantom’s threat.
Kermit Polling’s original score for Oklahoma City Ballet was dramatic, adding to the intensity of scenes particularly with the philharmonic’s horn section. Polling also conducted the Oklahoma City Philharmonic.  This is the second score of Polling’s the ballet has used, including The Wizard of Oz.
That said, the ballet could lose about 20 to 30 minutes from the from the ballet, cutting some of each of the longest pieces.
The scene designs by XuZheng He and Dale Hall were effective -- including a backdrop showing the ballet dancers’ view looking out at the opera house with empty seats, the ram’s head boat in which the Phantom and Christine ride the underground Seine, and the ten foot high arches the Phantom led Christine past as a dramatically curtain fell behind the arches, cutting her off even more from the outside world.
Michael Jones costumes were lush and to the period.
The company will perform The Nutcracker on December 10 – 12, and 17 – 19.  In 2011, they will perform Masters and Moderns on February 12 – 13, and Mozart’s Requiem, with Canterbury Choral Society, on March 26  - 27.  All performances are planned to be performed to the live music of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic.