POSTED ON MARCH 26, 2008:
Kivisto Performance Hall makes final preparations for April's grand opening
Up Close and Personal. Tulsa Ballet wants to close the gap between performers and spectators, making them all a part of a live performance.
The Kivisto Performance Hall, the third and final phase in the Tulsa Ballet's recent renovation and expansion project, is "on track for [its] grand opening on April 24," according to Jackie Kouri, Vice President of the Ballet's Integrated Campaign.
There were worries in the wake of last December's ice storm, but those worries have since abated.
Marcello Angelini, Artistic Director of the Tulsa Ballet, envisioned the Kivisto Performance Hall, also known as Studio K, as a "black box" performance space, which would maximize ballet's intimacy and intensity.
"[The] experience of seeing the art from so up close and personal changes [audiences'] perception of dance, enhances their appreciation of the artistry and athleticism of the dancers, and just brings them into the action like nothing else can," said Angelini.
He has also expressed desire for the audience to speak with the dancers after the performance, giving Tulsans an opportunity to learn more about the craft.
"I wanted to give our audience the opportunity to share with them their thoughts about the show and their observations of seeing them on stage for a full season. Basically, I want to close the gap between performers and spectators, making them all a part of a live performance."
The Tulsa Ballet, on the quest of making this vision a reality, has found a major donor in Thomas L. Kivisto.
Kivisto, co-founder of SemGroup, L. P., was introduced to Angelini at a meet-and-greet function.
There, the director expressed his dream of a "studio concept, which I found to be very edgy and unique to the US market," said Kivisto.
"When you see dancers on stage, with an orchestra pit dividing them from the audience, you tend to see them almost as super human," Angelini said.
Kivisto decided to make that dream a reality.
Making It Happen
Raised in Illinois, Kivisto set his sights on Tulsa after entering the energy industry in 1979 in Wichita, Kansas.
"Tulsa was attractive to me because of its strong energy position, its beautiful topography, its commitment to the arts, and the quality of the business and professional people out here," Kivisto said.
"I've always had a great appreciation of the arts. Clearly, if we could give the Tulsa Ballet the resources while keeping the head coach [Angelini] around... I knew Tulsa could make its way to the top of the dance world."
Kivisto has contributed, through SemGroup and his family foundation, $3 million to the project. The three-phase plan has a budget of $9 million, half of which accounts for the costs associated with Studio K.
Additional funds for "endowment, [and] operating and expanding programs" amount to $17.3 million, said Kouri.
The first two phases of the three-phase project have already been completed.
"The first phase was finished back in [the] fall of 2006 and included a fourth dance studio for use by our school, Center for Dance Education (CDE), [and] remodeled Dancers' Lounge and dressing rooms," said Kouri.
"The second phase added two more dance studios and some office space for all the CDE, making a total of six studios in our facility: three rehearsal studios for the professional company plus three new ones for the CDE."
However, in addition to Angelini's desire for a more intimate space, he also recognized that many patrons wanted a closer experience with the Tulsa Ballet's own facilities. In the past, the Tulsa Ballet has held its performances off-site, in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Chapman Music Hall. (And with the exception of a few performances a year, it will continue to do so.)
"[While] a large hall allows a company the needed space to perform large, complex and impressive works, it also lacks the intimacy of a smaller theater," said Angelini.
The Kivisto Performance Hall, a 300-seat theater, will fill both those gaps, and enable dance lovers to see just how finely the Tulsa Ballet's CDE is honing these dancers' craft. It will also feature its own lobby and ticket booth, as well as a full suite of light and sound equipment, a stage as big as that in the Chapman Music Hall, and even its own boutique.
Todd Cunningham, Tulsa Ballet Director of Marketing and Public Relations, plans to open the space to parties who can put its unique features to use (Interested persons should contact him at 749-6030 ext. 228).
Kivisto is pleased with the direction the project has been heading.
"You must have a message or product that will resonate with your customer. Marcello knows that, and the quality of his product and the direction he is taking the company will certainly capture a growing audience and appreciation around the world," said Kivisto.
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