Saturday, February 2, 2013


By Nancy Condit

"Paris Rouge," from OKC Ballet.

Three ballets make up the 8 p.m. Saturday, February 9th, and 2 p.m. Sunday, February 10th performances of the Oklahoma City Ballet : artistic director Robert Mills' rechoreographed
Paris Rouge of Parisian night life, the romance era  Napoli Divertisements, and Mills'
contemporary ballet Pushing Pennies at the Civic Center. Of particular interest is the 7 p.m. talk on Saturday evening in the Civic Center's south lobby with Mills and ballet master Jacob Sparso, who performed in Napoli Divertisements while he was with the Royal Danish Ballet.

"I love to put together triple bill evenings that show a diverse mix of choreographic styles, costuming and music... The result is a fast paced evening with something for every taste," Mills wrote to

The order of the dances is opening with Napoli Divertisements, an intermission, continuing to Pushing Pennies, another intermission, and finishing with Paris Rouge.

"Paris Rouge," from OKC Ballet

Mills has rechoreographed his own Paris Rouge, his original adaptation of Gaite Parisienne  to Jacques Offenbach's music choreographed by Leonide Massine in 1938. The rousing view of Paris nightlife, including the can can, has elements from two Moulin Rouge movies, emphasizing the 2001 musical starring  Nicole Kidman, and the 1952 film. The ballet's leading role of Louise, that echoes Kidman's role of Satine, is alternatively danced by new company member Ezlimer Dortolina from Caracas, Venezela, and veteran company dancer Stephanie Foraker Pitts. The poet who secures her love is danced in turn by Ryan Piper and Josh Crespo.

Napoli Divertisements, a series of dances, is taken from August Bournonville's full-length ballet "Napoli (The Fisherman and his Bride)," which premiered with the Royal Danish Ballet in l842. The dance is "a classic, pure dance piece from one of the greatest influences of the romantic era," says Mills in the press release.

Pushing Pennies is choreographed by Mills to music by Philip Glass. Mills describes it as an experiment in controlled randomness. "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 offstage.  Their movement phrases were then manipulated depending on where the number they drew told them to go" [from the press release].

Asked whether he was familiar with the late dance pioneer Merce Cunningham's similar style of work, Mills wrote to this blog: "Although I am aware of the work in which Merce Cunningham used a similar technique as I did in Pushing Pennies, I have never seen that particular work. 

"My inspiration in using the 'controlled randomness' method I used in creating Pushing Pennies was a way to challenge myself as an artist and a choreographer to create something outside of my comfort zone.  Regardless of the artistic medium (be it visual art, music composition, etc.) artists can fall into familiar patterns in creating new work.  This is why you can sometimes hear music and know exactly who the composer is or you can see choreography and witness certain signature movements that hint to a particular choreographer's work.  I like to work in different ways each time I create a new piece. In using this method with Pushing Pennies I was able to come up with a ballet that I wouldn't have thought of having used a more conventional method to develop the patterns and steps."

One .25 carat diamond solitaire necklace will be given away to one audience member during intermission at both the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon performances, and all attendees can get free photos with their date at the interactive Paris Rouge-themed photo booth in the lobby prior to both shows.

Individual ticket prices range from $33 to $55. Online ticketing is available at, by phone at 405.848.TOES (8637) or at the Civic Center Box Office. Check the website and Facebook pages for special packages.

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