POSTED ON OCTOBER 27, 2010:
Tulsa Ballet picks up the pace with "Classical Relativity"
Tulsa Ballet presents a trio of classical and neoclassical works in its upcoming program "Classical Relativity." The bill includes George Balanchine's Theme and Variations, James Kudelka's There,Below and Massimiliano Volpini's Amadé.
Dancing lead roles in all three works are Tulsa Ballet Principal Alfonso Martin and Soloist Soo Youn Cho.
"I love to dance classical works," Cho told Urban Tulsa Weekly. "I am very excited to dance 'Classical Relativity' because the program is three different ballets that are very challenging and difficult. Theme and Variations is especially hard technically and very strenuous."
A plotless ballet set to a score by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Theme and Variations was choreographed for American Ballet Theatre and premiered Nov. 26, 1947, at New York's City Center. It is Balanchine's most classical ballet and is intended, according to the choreographer, to "evoke that great period in classical dancing when Russian ballet flourished with the aid of Tchaikovsky's music."
"Theme and Variations is one of George Balanchine's most famous ballets," Martin said. "It's been called a full-length ballet in 20 minutes, so it takes the entire company to dance it and it's very challenging for everyone. It was created a long time ago, but nothing has been changed. The choreography has not been made easier for the dancers."
"In Theme and Variations, when the curtain opens, the audience will be wowed," Cho said. "Most ballets start with a pas de deux, one solo, then the coda, the end of the ballet. In Theme and Variations, it starts with two solos, a pas de deux and then the coda. The solos are very difficult and take stamina."
"Classical Relativity" marks the Oklahoma premiere of Kudelka's There, Below, which Tulsa Ballet's Artistic Director Marcello Angelini said "merges classical ballet with modern movement to invoke visceral images of spirituality and the afterlife."
Five couples perform the piece, set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
"James Kudelka is the leading Canadian choreographer and one of the people responsible for reshaping classical ballet worldwide," Angelini said. "I am proud to introduce this outstanding dance maker to our audience in Oklahoma through one of his most suggestive works, There, Below."
"In There, Below, the audience will see the company's partnering skills because there are five pas de deux's," Martin said. "You have to have a lot of coordination with your partner and instinctive movements that are very challenging for all the dancers."
"Before my pas de dux, there's a group dance," Cho said. "It's not long, but it's difficult to dance because the movements are uncomfortable and awkward. That's the way the choreographer wanted it -- with uncomfortable moments."
Volpini's Amadé was created for Tulsa Ballet in 2008. It's a tribute to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, titled after the name Mozart used when he signed his letters in Italian and dedicated his love for Italy.
"Amadé is the first piece in the program, and it is a neoclassical ballet that is soft and enjoyable to dance," Martin said. "The audience will see the dancers' joy, and the music is Mozart, so everyone will be familiar with it."
Cho said the music Volpini chose for his work makes her happy.
"The music is really the first actor in this ballet," Volpini said. "Mozart's musical phrases contain so many feelings that the dancers have to do nothing but follow the wave of this feeling."
Music, though, is at the core of most classical ballet works, and it certainly is a feature in this program.
UTW asked these Tulsa Ballet dancers, who have the opportunity, through the unique programming Angelini chooses for his company, to dance both modern and classical works, if they have a preference between the two.
"I love both," Martin said. "The experience and challenges in classical ballets can be poured into modern works, and the freedom you get from modern works can sometimes be poured into the classical ballets.
"Dance starts with classical ballet, and is the key that opens other dance forms, neoclassical or contemporary," Martin continued. "Classical ballet sets the standard for a company to do a full-length ballet. Sometimes companies perform just one type of dance, so they have only one type of dancer. In our company, we can go both ways, which makes for variety. Why just go one way? It's better for the dancers, since they like the challenge and, as the company grows, it can educate the audience."
"Classical ballet is the basic element for all other forms of dance," Cho said. "Even in sports like figure skating or gymnastics, ballet is a basic element. Modern dancers need classical training too because, if you can do classical, you can do modern dance. Even modern dancers need the basic postures learned in classical ballet."
"Classical works have certain boundaries and rules we have to follow," Martin said. "Classical ballet is stricter than when we dance neoclassical or modern works. With modern or neoclassical works, we have more freedom with how far we can take our bodies."
As for audiences, though, they seem to enjoy both the classics and contemporary works.
"Ballet is like colors," Martin said. "Some audiences love a full-length ballet because of its history and because it has a story to tell. For instance, young audiences like The Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake or Cinderella because they are romantic. Other audiences like triple bills because they can see different choreographers in one night.
"I usually treat a triple bill as if it is a full-length ballet with three acts," the dancer continued. "Each piece takes a different energy and approach. For a dancer, it's a challenge. When you finish the first one, you have to flip the switch to slower movements or more depth. In the third piece, you have to explode and be on top of your game."
Tulsa Ballet plans to be on top of its game Oct. 29-31 when it presents "Classical Relativity" at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Chapman Music Hall, 110 E. 2nd St. Evening performances begin at 8pm, and Sunday's matinee begins at 3pm. Tickets are $20 to $55 and may be purchased online at tulsapac.com or at the Tulsa PAC box office.
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