Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In a picture presented during her talk by dance historian Camille Hardy from OU,
Michel Fokine appears as the prince in his 1910 ballet. Photo by Nancy Condit

By Nancy Condit

The combination of Oklahoma City Ballet's spirited pre-performance lecture-discussion and the program itself Saturday night at the Civic Center was fascinating.  The company was at its best, and the evening fulfilled the great variety of dance styles that encompass ballet and that Oklahoma City audiences have come to expect.

Josh Crespo and Callye McCallum in "Junctures."
Photo by Rocky Chen

The premiere of Junctures, Alan Hineline's abstract ballet, set to Michael Nyman's minimalist music "Exit No Exit," was a very nice piece, coming from "the intersections in life -- junctures.  When I came to Oklahoma City a month ago I had a piece of music and an idea, but not a step planned.  I put steps into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into chapters."
At times, during the point ballet, the dancers moved within the music, seeming to dance to their own beat.
In a ballet that stayed on the floor, the one time lift of Amanda Herd high over the heads of Josh Crespo and Tye Love was a memorable part of the work.  The contemporary ballet was composed of both classic and modern ballet work, including angled body moves.The most arresting moment came at the end, when the music finished at the height of its resolution, rather than completing it. About ten men, standing diagonally across the stage, lifted an equal number of women above their heads while the women reached up and the curtain came down. Very dramatic and singularly notable for its musicality.
"It's important that a company continues to grow and doesn't become a museum," Hineline said in the lecture.  He is the chief executive officer and resident choreographer of The Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, which Mills identified as one of the leading schools of classical ballet in the country. He also choreographed "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" two seasons ago, which OKC Ballet presented
Choreographers Alan Hineline - "Junctures," and Robert Mills -
"In Between Dreams," and "The Firebird"
pose after the lecture discussion.
Photo by Nancy Condit

"In Between Dreams" was an intriguing contemporary ballet with excellent work by Stephanie Foraker-Pitts. Mills' choreography had her performing pirouettes and exploring the spaces in her rounded arms, under her legs, and around her body after she broke through a black spandex curtain at the back of the stage.  The curtain was used particularly effective when arms extended to cradle Pitts.In the second section Miki Kawamura was thrown around by David Barocio, and even tossed over his head -- and caught.  At the section's end they walked off hand in hand.  In the final section, "Serenity," the strength of the women dancers showed as they were held aloft at the shoulders and extended their rest of their bodies up in round curves.  This recalled Mills' and Hineline's discussion that dancers are now able to do move than they were able to do before.
The music was by prominent composer Arvo Part and Gustav Mahler, creating a more struggling dance in the first two sections -- "Innocence" and "In Between Dreams," and the lyricism in the final section, "Serenity."    This reviewer had trouble with the music's flow of the second section into the third, while the audience was very enthusiastic.
"In Between Dreams was choreographed by artistic director Robert Mills and first performed on April 13, 2007 by Ballet Nouveau Colorado, where he was artistic director, was staged in Oklahoma City by Charlotte Hart, who spent two years as assistant director for the student company of Ballet Nouveau Colorado, and by Mills.  It was dedicated to his mother, "because you have the peace and serenity you so often dreamed of."

Mills' remake of Mikel Alexandre Benois and Michel Fokine's The Firebird, to Igor Stravinsky's score, was visually stunning as the curtain rose on a fog filled forest which cleared to reveal a tree of golden apples.  Mills based his version of the ballet on Fokine's 1910 original ballet rather than later versions, including that by Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine, in which the Firebird was danced by Maria Tallchief.  With such an outstanding opening, and such a strong company of dancers, including Jacob Sparso's wonderfully long curved finger nailed and cloaked evil Kashchei, the only disappointment was the brevity of the Russian folk tale classic ballet.  This reviewer was unable to find anything about the length of the different versions. Yui Sato was very good as Prince Ivan. Sarah Chun danced well, but, in a role that has become mythic, she had a lot to live up to. As an historic piece, the captive princesses with their luxuriant hair, and the aboriginal monsters in wide stanced dances, clad in terrific leotards with curving silver streaks running down them.

Costumes were by OKC Ballet costume director Michael Jones, with Robert Mills' designs for "In Between Dreams" constructed by Jones, and Bryan Crump and Heather Beleza adding make-up work on Chun.  Sets on "Junctures" were the bare stage with lights in the cross girders at the back of the stage, giving the effective impression of a cityscape.  Also uncredited was the spandex black curtain for "In Between Dreams."  The wonderful sets and lighting for "The Firebird” were by Dale Halland Buddy Combs.  Lights for "Junctures" and "The Firebird" were by Buddy Combs, and those for "In Between Dreams" were by Combs after original designs by Nick Kargel.
Mills noted at the evening's beginning that co-founder, with Yvonne Chouteau, Miguel Terekhov died earlier this year.  A memorial service, open to the public, is scheduled for May 6 in Norman.  Excerpts from some of his ballets will be performed.

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