Growing up in Tulsa during my pre-pubescent years, partly raised by a devout maternal grandmother, I remember being taught again and again: God hates dancing.
Despite the Bible's many references to joyful dancing in praise and celebration, my grandmother and our fundamentalist church taught us that dancing is a sin in God's eyes.
Well, maybe He'd make an exception for Twyla Tharp's "Sweet Fields."
Set to American religious hymns of the 18th and 19th centuries, danced in Norma Kamali's crisp, white "delicates," the dance is inspired by Shaker religious traditions, asserting the theme "geometry as a key to Godliness."
The dance is one of three presented by the Aspen Sante Fe Ballet, brought to Tulsa by Choregus Productions this Tuesday and Wednesday, April 14 and 15, at 7:30pm in the John H. Williams Theatre of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Second St.
Ken Tracy, founder of Choregus Productions, brings new, contemporary, nationally-recognized works to Tulsa--works Tulsans would otherwise have to travel to see.
By bringing Aspen Santa Fe Ballet to T-Town, he's letting all of us in on a little secret the rest of country has been privy to since 1996. That's when Bebe Schweppe formed ASFB with the mission of building broad, sophisticated repertoire by commissioning works from some of the best choreographers in the world. The company is one of the most nationally acclaimed in terms of breadth and depth of repertoire.
The repertoire ASFB will bring to Tulsa includes the aforementioned Tharp piece, created for her company in 1996, and two works commissioned by ASFB: Red Sweet by Jorma Elo, which was premiered in 2008, and Noir Blanc by Moses Pendleton, premiered in 2002.
Tharp's "Sweet Fields" is influenced by her Quaker upbringing, inspired by the "harmony and restraint" of Pythagorean geometry, according to her abstract on the piece.
It involves six male and five female dancers, who are mostly separate for the ballet's entirety. When they do comingle, it is brief. Using the lines of their limbs, they trace geometric patterns on the floor in a work that is simple, disciplined and restrained.
Elo's "Red Sweet," set to music by Vivaldi and Biber, is the second work commissioned by ASFB from the choreographer and is said to have given the dancers and opportunity to "hone" their skills.
"There is a lot more of yourself in the piece when it is created for the company," Samantha Klanac, a six-year dancer with ASFB, told the Aspen Daily News. "We're all classically trained, but we each bring something a little different to the table. It's just a more intimate experience."
Pendleton's "Noir Blanc," has been called both "obvious" and "delightfully deceptive" and is an ASFB audience favorite. The ballet is performed behind a scrim, through which is seen "slim, nebulous white mannequins performing gravity-defying movements, including tilting, floating, and sailing."
Tickets to Aspen Santa Fe Ballet are $30 and available at www.myticketoffice.com or call 596-7111.
Another tidbit from my childhood you probably don't care to know is that, since I can remember, I have loved to read. I'd read anything I could get my hands on. I'd read in the car, at the dinner table (until my grandmother told me it was rude and to stop) and during any other spare moment.
I read less now than I used to, mostly because work and motherhood leave me exhausted and with very little time for anything other than sleep and Facebook, but I may have come across a motivating reason to get my nose stuck in a book again.
Book Smart Tulsa is a project by local author Jeff Martin (of The Customer is Always Wrong fame and whose "completely made up memoir" My Dog Ate My Nobel Prize will be released in September) and Mary Beth Babcock, owner of the hip boutique Dwelling Spaces at 119 S. Detroit, who are attempting to make Tulsa a "more literary city."
After leaving his post at Barnes and Noble, Martin entertained the idea of opening a bookstore downtown but decided against an endeavor that would require so much start-up capital during a national recession. So, Book Smart Tulsa will do pretty much everything a bookstore does in way of events, but without the "store" part.
The city-wide initiative will bring people together and (hopefully) inspire more non-readers to pick up a book once in a while.
The initiative kicks off with Book Pub this Tuesday, April 14 at 7pm at James E. McNellie's Public House, 409 E. First St., and once a month thereafter. Martin wanted to start a non-traditional book club, and he figured that, if he couldn't sell it on its literary merits alone, he'd "throw in alcohol. That might help."
For $20, members get a start-up membership kit, which includes the first book (a surprise, but Martin promises it is current, funny and less than 300 pages), a voucher for a free beer and a membership card that will get you a discount on future Book Pub titles if they're purchased at Dwelling Spaces.
"Traditional book clubs are mostly comprised of middle-aged women and people who watch Oprah," Martin said. "We really want to get young people and men involved as well."
At each meeting, Book Pub members will choose the next month's reading selection. Participants can sign up at the Book Smart Web site to be part of the selection committee.
In addition to Book Pub, Book Smart Tulsa will hold story time for kids, book signings, launches and other book-related events.
At some point, Martin said, he'd like to see locals start their own literary initiatives and use Book Smart Tulsa as a facilitator.
"We want to build community involvement," Martin said. "It's not really a money-making thing. It's a community-building thing. We want to help build more moral for the city."
To find out more about Book Smart Tulsa and sign up for the Book Pub selection committee, go to www.booksmarttulsa.com.
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