Neoclassical ballet

OKC Ballet makes art accessible with free performances and “pay what you can”

Oklahoma City Ballet to begin 2022-23 season this weekend with its annual free outdoor performance and end it in June with a new showcase that invites patrons to pay what they can.

In between, the dance company’s 51st season will feature a ballet of sexy stories based on one of the film’s inspirations “Moulin Rouge!”, a new choreography for the party favorite “The Nutcracker”, the timeless family fairy tale “Cinderella” and more.

“We’re just trying to make ballet more inclusive, more accessible (and) to open it up to new audiences,” said Jo Lynne Jones, Executive Director of Oklahoma City Ballet’s John Kirkpatrick.

As the board continues its search for a successor to Robert Mills, longtime artistic director, who left the organization in January, OKC Ballet performers dance in an eclectic new season.

Here’s what people can expect from OKC Ballet’s 2022-2023 roster:

1. Free “Ballet Under the Stars”

When and where: September 17 at Love’s Travel Stops stage at Scissortail Park and Great Lawn.

For the third year, OKC Ballet will kick off its season with its free outdoor showcase, which quickly became a firm and community favorite.

“It was born during the pandemic as an opportunity to just give our dancers a chance to perform and the audience to be in what we thought was a safe environment outside. We had no idea it would be so well received,” Jones said. “We would have been happy if we had 500 people showing up to that first one, and when Scisortail Park officials told us they estimated 3,500 people, we couldn’t believe it. And we just had to do it again. with that kind of success.”

Children dance at Oklahoma City Ballet "Ballet under the stars" at Scisortail Park on Friday, October 9, 2020.

Attendees are encouraged to bring picnics, blankets and lawn chairs and arrive early, as pre-show activities begin at 5:30 p.m. and include photo ops with the dancers, giveaways and a dance class. family dance for all ages.

From 7 to 8:30 p.m., professional dancers from OKC Ballet and students from the Yvonne Chouteau School, along with students from the University of Oklahoma School of Dance, will perform 12 short pieces ranging from classical to modern. .

“We’re so excited to give people the opportunity to come see something that’s free, accessible, entertaining – and maybe show them that ballet isn’t what they think it is,” Jones said.

In case of bad weather, the event will be postponed to October 1st.

Courtney Connor Jones and Alejandro Gonzalez dance during Oklahoma City Ballet's first annual Beer & Ballet at the Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City on Thursday, September 1, 2022.

2. “Lady with Camellias”

When and where: October 21-23 at the Civic Center Music Hall.

A sexy ballet with mature themes, “La Dame aux Camélias” is a tragically romantic story of forbidden love between a wealthy Parisian courtesan and a provincial bourgeois.

“The title of this is where it catches people off guard…but I think what they’ll find is that they actually know this story,” said acting art director Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye. of OKC Ballet.

The ballet was adapted from Alexandre Dumas’ 1848 French novel “La Dame aux Camélias”. The book inspired Giuseppe Verdi’s iconic opera “La Traviata”, several films titled “Camille”, including George Cukor’s Oscar-nominated 1936 version with Greta Garbo, and Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 hit film “Moulin Rouge!” with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.

“It’s a dramatic ballet, it’s a difficult ballet. It’s good for our artists: they’re going to grow a lot, and I think our audience is going to grow a lot,” Jolicoeur-Nye said. “It’s a ballet that’s been done by a lot of great companies around the world, and to bring it to Oklahoma City, we’re really lucky to be able to do that.”

Choreographed by Val Caniparoli, “La Dame aux Camélias” is set to music by the famous composer Frédéric Chopin. The OKC Ballet production will include live music performed by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic and Canterbury Voices.

Zane Winders dances during Oklahoma City Ballet's first annual Beer & Ballet at the Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City on Thursday, September 1, 2022.

3. “Nutcracker”

When and where: From December 10 to 18 at the Civic Center.

Presented by Devon Energy, OKC Ballet will continue its cherished Christmas tradition with the family favorite based on The enduring fantasy story of ETA Hoffmann “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”. The OKC Philharmonic and Canterbury Voices will be back to perform Piotr Tchaikovsky’s precious score live.

The sets and costumes will be familiar to you, but this year’s production will feature new choreography by Jolicoeur-Nye.

Also new this year: OKC Ballet offers its first sensory show with its presentation at 6 p.m. on December 15 of “The Nutcracker”.

“It will be a little earlier in the evening, and we have been working with AutismOklahoma making sure we modify it in the way we need it to be sensory. We’re going to put out all the loud bangs…and the lights in the house will come on dim,” Jones said.

“Families can move around: they can come in and out if they want or need to get up and take a break. … They can pull out their iPads and phones, wear headphones, regardless of accommodation what they need.”

Mayu Odaka and Alejandro Gonzalez dance during Oklahoma City Ballet's first annual Beer & Ballet at the Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City on Thursday, September 1, 2022.

4. ‘Cinderella’

When and where: February 10-12 at the Civic Center.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, OKC Ballet will bring back one of the most famous fairy tales of all time, with a world premiere choreography by Jolicoeur-Nye. The OKC Philharmonic Orchestra will perform Sergei Prokofiev’s enchanted score live at each performance.

The family production will feature more than 100 roles for OKC Ballet’s professional and student dancers, though the comedic stepsisters are expected to steal the show.

Oklahoma City Ballet dancers perform during Oklahoma City Ballet's first annual Beer & Ballet at the Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City on Thursday, September 1, 2022.

5. ‘Future Voices: A Choreographic Showcase’

When and where: March 9-12 at the Susan E. Brackett Dance Center at OKC Ballet.

In its fourth year, the annual OKC Ballet showcase will include eight to 10 new works, all 10 minutes or less.

“These will all be world premieres. The production is entirely curated by our dancers. This year in particular, rather than bringing in a guest choreographer to create a piece for the program, we are bringing in a guest mentor to invest in return to our company of dancers and artists who are interested in choreography to help them develop and hone their skills,” said Jolicoeur-Nye.

The choreographers will choose their own music, dancers and costumes to accompany their short original works.

“The other big thing is that it’s really up close and personal: you can see the beads of sweat dripping from the dancers right in front of you, which is an experience you don’t get in theatre,” he said. declared. “We also do a brief chat after the performance with the choreographers for the audience to ask questions and get insight into the choreographic process.”

Oklahoma City Ballet dancers perform during Oklahoma City Ballet's first annual Beer & Ballet at the Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City on Thursday, September 1, 2022.

6. ‘Shorts’

When and where: May 5-7 at the Civic Center.

As its title suggests, “Shorts” will feature three divergent short ballets: Gerald Arpino’s “Birthday Variations,” a playful classical piece featuring Verdi’s infectious opera-ballet music; “Western Symphony” by legendary choreographer George Balanchine, which is set in the Wild West and explores a frontier where traditional ballet meets American folk dance; and Kennedy Center Fellow Twyla Tharp “The Golden Section”, set to music by Grammy-winning Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.

“This program is made up of three ballets that represent the iconic field of dance throughout history: we have three pieces by iconic choreographers that are well recognized around the world…and it’s a mix of neoclassical, classic and contemporary,” said Jolicoeur-Nye. .

“These pieces are also on an artist’s to-do list that they want to perform at some point in their career.”

Mickayla Carr dances during Oklahoma City Ballet's first annual Beer & Ballet at the Susan E. Brackett Dance Center in Oklahoma City on Thursday, September 1, 2022.

7. “Unpacked”

When and where: June 23-25 ​​at the Te Ata Theater at the Oklahoma Contemporary Art Center.

The new program will feature world premiere short works by choreographers Rena Butler, Larry Keigwin and Jolicoeur-Nye. Yatika Fields, visual artist from Oklahoma, which is Osage, Muscogee and Cherokee, will design sets and costumes.

In addition to three performances, “Unboxed” will include a family matinee and movement class on June 24.

“We’re going to have it in their black box theater, and we’re calling it ‘Unboxed’ because it’s going to be kind of a multimedia performance,” Jones said.

For the first time, OKC Ballet will offer a “pay what you can” option for production audiences.

“People don’t need to keep believing that ballet is stuffy. It’s more than the classical ballet that I think people often think of as such. And it can be fun,” Jones said.

For tickets and information, go to https://www.okcballet.org.

Characteristics of Writer Brandy “BAM” McDonnell covered Oklahoma’s arts, entertainment and culture sectors for The Oklahoman for 20 years. Join her at[email protected],www.facebook.com/brandybammcdonnell andtwitter.com/BAMOK. Support her work by signing up for herSee & Do Oklahoma Newsletter andsubscribe to The Oklahoman.