OKC Ballet introduces new dancers and new season

OKC Ballet introduces new dancers and new season
Garett Fisbeck
OKC Ballet dancers Jefferson Payne and Dave Naquin pose for a photo outside the Civic Center Music Hall, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016.

Fall signals a general glee for football season, yet you would be remiss to overlook another equally athletic venture: the autumnal introduction to Oklahoma City Ballet’s 45th season.

Robert Mills, OKC Ballet’s art director, told Oklahoma Gazette the 2016-17 season features six performances ranging from fan favorite classics to cutting-edge contemporaries.

“I’m thrilled to show OKC the many facets of ballet,” Mills said. “This season, our company is going to give people what they didn’t necessarily expect, but what they didn’t know they actually wanted out of a performance.”

This season includes two new corps de ballet dancers, 17 new apprentices and four promotions in addition to 26 returning dancers.

“Out of the hundreds upon hundreds of online and in-person auditions we reviewed for this season, our dancers represent some of the most dedicated talent our company has experienced,” Mills said. “This is the biggest group of dancers we’ve featured and represents nine different countries and 13 states across the nation.”
Among the company’s performers is newly appointed soloist and Oklahoma native Amanda Herd-Popejoy.

Returning this season to perform in principle roles are Japan’s Yui Sato and Miki Kawamura, two of OKC Ballet’s most impressive dancers.

Ukraine’s Alvin Tovstogray, Cuba’s Julio Concepcion and the U.S.’s Ronnie Underwood also continue their roles as principals.

“My goal for choosing dancers is to showcase not only their incredible formal abilities, but to also find performers that know how to do just that — our dancers perform to engage the audience and create an energetic experience,” Mills said.

Mills possesses a contagious drive that inspires greatness.

“Our growth has mirrored the growth of OKC,” Mills said. “I hope this season showcases the milestones our company has accomplished in the past several years, and I think we have grown with the OKC community as well, because what we’re capable of has certainly increased with the city’s support.”

Entertaining history

Entering his ninth year at OKC Ballet, Mills has transformed the company into a globally supported art institution.

“I’m very proud to say during my eight years here, I’ve brought in artists and choreographers that would typically work for the Boston Ballet or American Ballet Theatre,” Mills said. “It’s an enormous job, and I’m extremely privileged to fulfill this role.”

Rodeo, A Triple Bill, kick-starts the season, highlighting consummate modern and contemporary performances.

Serenade showcases the graceful, yet strenuous choreography of the late, legendary George Balanchine. It was the first ballet he choreographed in America, set to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 1880 Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48.

Agnes de Mille’s beloved Rodeo completes the bill.

“Balanchine is without a doubt considered the most important choreographer of the 20th century, and this is the first time our company has ever performed his work,” Mills said. “Agnes de Mille is also important to the history of the OKC Ballet, since this is the first time the company has danced to her choreography in over 30 years.”

Mills’ own choreography takes the stage in the premiere of abstract contemporary ballet Our Private Rooms.

“I’ve been fortunate to be hands-on with all our performances this season, including choreographing my own ballet within our repertoire,” Mills said.

The company’s season also features classical performances, including the world premiere of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which reinterprets a time-honored story through dance.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a classic Shakespeare comedy most people are familiar with,” Mills said.

It is choreographed by Sarah Tallman (a Denver-based choreographer and dancer).

In February, Mills said the company will enchant audiences with The Sleeping Beauty, which features classical ballet’s most challenging, detailed choreography set to Tchaikovsky’s scores.

“Many people associate The Sleeping Beauty with Disney or children’s genres, and that’s what initially draws crowds to this kind of performance,” Mills said. “However, a lot of people don’t understand how iconic this work is within the performing arts world. It is one of the cornerstones of classical ballet.”

Mills said that this season provides a rich spectrum, ultimately cementing OKC’s status as a national dance  epicenter.

“With this season,” Mills said, “I ask that audiences allow us to show them what ballet could be so that we can continue to be a vehicle for creation.”

Visit okcballet.com for more information.

Print Headline: Worldly steps, Oklahoma City Ballet introduces new dancers and opens local audiences’ eyes to what ballet can be with this season’s performances.