OKC BALLET WOWS WITHCHOREOGRAPHIC
MASTERS AND MODERNS
Posing after the pre-performance talk are the choreographer
Jessica Lang of "Voila," the artistic director of OKC Ballet
and choreographer Robert Mills of "Pushing Pennies," and
restager Maia Wilkins for The Gerald Arpino Trust Fund for
By Nancy Condit
A completely new ballet company appeared in the Masters and Moderns program presented by Oklahoma City Ballet Saturday night at the
. It was crisp, it was new. and it was terrific. It built further on the lovely steps the company has taken since its reorganization, and presented a company of well trained dancers that has found its place with “Voila!” by Jessica Lang, “Light Rain” by Gerald Arpino, co-founder of the Joffrey Ballet, and “Pushing Pennies” by artistic director Robert Mills. Lang and Mills presented world premiere works. Civic Center
This does not mean that these should replace the ballets that already have a home in the company’s repertoire – including the story ballets of Oklahoma City Ballet’s Jacob Sparso’s like Phantom of the Opera introduced this season, artistic director Mills’ annually anticipated The Nutcracker, and classical ballets like Giselle. It does mean that the nearly full house Saturday evening also enjoyed this aspect of ballet, with three standing ovations. It is lovely to see more of the range of ballet from the 19th century to contemporary ballets to some edgier works in
, which is what Mills set out to do in presenting works that show the progress of ballet from the 1960’s to now. Money and time being what they are, frequent trips to New York City, etc. are not realistic for most audience members. Bringing some of those works here, including the works of active choreographers, is a very appreciated part of art, dance and life. Oklahoma City
The world premiere of artistic director Robert Mills' “Pushing Pennies” was the outstanding dance of the evening. In the contemporary point ballet, a fluid metallic copper clad woman wearing a tutu in a disc shape, danced by Grace Medaugh, started the piece to the music of Philip Glass’ Prologue, Song no. 2 & Movement IV from the Glass Violin Concerto #2 and the dance ended with the choreography driving the dancers to Glass’ equally compelling music “Mishoma” from his String Quartet #3. It was an extremely effective end to a very good dance by Mills.
Medaugh, who danced on point in curves, was followed by Tye Love, whose moves were more angular. The third piece was a fluid pas de deux, clearly based on the familiar classical form, danced by Stephanie Foraker-Pitts and David Barocio. Heads swiveled, and arms curved from the shoulders to fingertips. When she leapt into a lift behind his back, the move was so beautiful that this reviewer wanted to cry. In the final section the dancers moved intricately in small groups in chess-like moves on the stage marked like a checkerboard.
“Pushing Pennies” is based on work Mills presented in last season’s Thr3e by Thr3e. As Mills explained in his talk before the show, and wrote in the program, “The dancers entrances, exits and where they dance on stage were selected by drawing a number from 1-20. Each number represented a quadrant onstage or a wing leading to the offstage. Their movements phrases were then manipulated depending on where the number they drew told them to go.” The costumes were designed by Mills and
based Michael Jones, with lighting by Dale Hall. Oklahoma City
The world premiere created for the Oklahoma City Ballet by Jessica Lang for her piece “Voila!” was a charming, lighthearted contemporary ballet of folk dances. Yann Tiersen’s music sounded very Neapolitan. The dramatic beginning of dancers in ballet shoes silhouetted against a light background quickly opened to groups dancing and evolving into circle dances. At one point two women swung the man in the middle off his feet – a nice touch of the new without being edgy. In Ronnie Underwood’s lift of Miki Kawamura with her arms around his neck, Kawamura faced out – another very effective touch of contemporary ballet well within the familiar dance form. In the dance’s fourth section, the dancers’ curved arms and hands fell to hip level during turns, giving the dancers turns a very effective swirling look. Audrey Johnston, with Stephanie Foraker-Pitts and Jerry Pines did some curtain play, with just their legs showing – perhaps a tribute to the late Merce Cunningham. The stage design and lighting were done by Lang and Dale Hall, and the costumes by Lang and Michael Jones. Lang is a
based freelance choreographer who has created more than 73 works on companies, including Joffrey Ballet. New York
Gerald Arpino’s “Light Rain,” on point, began with a very striking pyramid of 14 dancers reaching up to the yellow dappled light that bathed them. This was Thomas Skelton’s original lighting, and the costume design of skin colored leotards was by A. Christina Giannini. It was restaged by Maia Wilkins, from the Joffrey Ballet, and who also danced with them for 18 years. Arpino, co-founder of the Joffrey, created this dance, premiered in 1981, for the Joffrey Ballet’s silver anniversary. It went from the opening pyramid to splitting Darli Iakoleva more than suspended between two male dancers. The men were much more formal, but David Barocio, towards the dance’s end, undulated and swiveled fabulously. Mills, in the pre-performance talk, referred to the dance as “sexy.” It was. At the end, the dancers seemed to ride the waves of light on Martha Graham’s pelvic contractions. In the program, Arpino is quoted, “It is my gift to the artists of the Eighties. I am inspired by their modes and rituals, their passions.” Iakoleva was elegant, precise and excellent. Again, Underwood showed his strength as a partner. The company was great.
George Balanchine’s “Valse-Fantaisie,” was choreographed in 1967. It was restaged by Jessica Gattinella from The George Balanchine Trust. The neo-classical ballet was danced well by lead Miki Kawamura, but the dance, based on the lighter court dances of the 18th century, was not the best this reviewer has seen this company do in uniformity and the precision of such a dance. Underwood partnered well. This is a dance to look forward to again as the company becomes more comfortable with it.
c. Nancy Condit
Photo by Nancy Condit
Ice and snow on Lake Hefner at sunset.