Following a wildly successful showing of Michael Smuin's Romeo and Juliet in September, Tulsa Ballet is ready to continue its 2007-2008 season with In White, an evening of three ballets: The Concert by Jerome Robbins, Vivace by Val Caniparoli and Bruiser by Stanton Welch.
In a pre-season interview, Tulsa Ballet's Artistic Director Marcello Angelini expressed excitement and pride in the caliber of choreographers whose work will be performed by TB this season.
To Angelini, being able to perform the works of such legends as Jerome Robbins and Michael Smuin and also those of up-and-comers in the industry, such as Nacho Duato and Stanton Welch, proves TB's standing in the ballet world, both nationally and abroad.
Thursday, November 2 marks the Oklahoma premiere of The Concert, a clumsy-yet-graceful spoof on concert theatre. In this farce, an audience has gathered to listen to a concert of Chopin piano pieces, and nothing goes quite right. The evening is filled with confusion and fantasy, with people finding themselves in the wrong seats, imagining their lives have taken different directions and dancers not knowing how to use their bodies on stage.
While the ballet is quite comical, with outrageously loud costumes, it is also a very athletic, very theatrical piece.
Before his death in 1998, Robbins enjoyed a fantastic career as both a dancer and a choreographer. From the 1970s on he was co-Artistic Director of the New York City Ballet, alongside George Balanchine, and created many world-famous ballets still being performed today. Like most choreographers with his distinction, he was very choosy about which companies were allowed to perform his ballets, and he left strict instructions with his judicators as to what kinds of companies shall be permitted to perform his works.
"Jerome Robbins (is) one of the five most exclusive choreographers in the world," Angelini said. "The only companies to have access to his works are major, major companies.
"When he died, he left three judicators who knew his standards, so it's still hardly possible to get his works. And yet we have been blessed and fortunate and deserving to get his works.
"This is his third ballet (that TB has performed), and what is interesting is that instead of giving us a work for four or six dancers as he has done in the past, this is a work for 21 dancers, saying that we have 21 dancers in the company who can dance Jerome Robbins."
That fact doesn't come much as a surprise to Angelini, though, who told me, "I don't think I have been this happy with the company for at least five years."
The next show on the bill is Vivace, choreographed by Tulsa Ballet resident choreographer Val Caniparoli and set to music by Franz Schubert. Caniparoli created this ballet for TB, premiering it in 2003.
"It was such a wonderful work and kept the company sharp, and so we said 'let's do it again.' And it's about time," said Angelini.
Vivace is advertised as a ballet "without pretense," simply meant to entertain the audience and challenge the dancers. This sort of stripped, raw ballet theatre should contrast nicely to the theatrical show it follows.
The evening ends with Bruiser, a rough, muscular piece by Australian dancer and choreographer Stanton Welch, who is also the Artistic Director for Houston Ballet and, according to Angelini, "one of the rising stars on the scene." The work is set to music by Graeme Koehne.
Welch created Bruiser for the Houston Ballet, and it, like his home Australia, is sports-oriented.
"Bruiser is rougher, more explosive, and into the ground, with lots of natural movement and styles. It's about the impetus for the movement, as opposed to the pretty pictures found in classical ballet," said Welch in an interview published on the Houston Ballet website.
"The women in Bruiser are in pointe shoes, and the piece uses a classical technique. But the dancers punch each other, kick each other, headlock each other; and then they do an arabesque."
"Australia is very sports-oriented," Welch continued. "We have to learn how to play football and cricket . . . In Bruiser, there's a parallel between boxing, wrestling and other sports with relationships and life . . .
"Being in a relationship is rough. It's like a boxing match. People's words can be like punches. You have to have rounds, and there's no umpire. Any move that you make--to flirt, to tease or to fight--is a series of punches or blocks.
"Bruiser is definitely an ensemble piece, showcasing the entire cast, with various solos, pas de deux and pas de trios. Nine men and women are featured in the ballet. There are three movements. The first and last movement are two rounds in a battle, and the middle movement, a pas de deux, is the 'time out,' the rest period in between," Welch finished.
With three very different, but very difficult and beautiful works on the bill, In White is sure to be an evening to impress, with three chances to see it this weekend.
The ballet opens on Friday, Nov. 2 at 8pm. A second performance is set for Saturday, Nov. 3, 8pm. A Sunday, Nov. 4 matinee begins at 3pm. All performances are in the Chapman Music Hall of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. 2nd St., at 8pm.
Tickets are $20-70. To get them, call the PAC at 596-7111 or visit www.tulsapac.com or www.tulsaballet.org.
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