Tulsa Ballet Dancers Celebrate 60 Years

CLASSIC REUNION: Past, present and future members of the Tulsa Ballet gathered at the University of Tulsa this past Mother’s Day to celebrate Tulsa Ballet’s 60 Years of success.

Courtesy photo

EDITOR’S : This article is courtesy of a long-time volunteer and supporter of the Tulsa Ballet.

Sandwiched between Tulsa Ballet’s final two performances on Mother’s Day, 2017, was a quiet, joyful event. On the green just outside of the University of Tulsa’s Lorton Performance Center was a tent filled with tables surrounded by celebrants.  This was a gathering of six decades of former Tulsa Ballet dancers. They came from across the country to celebrate with their friends, their audience, and Tulsa Ballet supporters. All were applauding the end of Tulsa Ballet’s 60th Anniversary Season.

Who could have imagined the impact on Tulsa…Oklahoma…and the entire U.S. ballet world when two world-famous professional dancers chose Tulsa for their retirement.  Moscelyne Larkin, one of Oklahoma’s “Indian ballerinas” and her premier danseur husband, Roman Jasinski, wanted their small son to have a “normal” upbringing.  So they settled in Tulsa, joined the studio of Miss Larkin’s mother and began to teach.
From that simple decision blossomed a whole bouquet of firsts….the first performance of a raw, ragged corps de ballet made up of students from four different studios; the first Oklahoma Indian Ballerina Festival that turned astonished international eyes on our city; early performances on tennis courts and in church basements; the first All-Boys class west of the Mississippi.

While young students began to be molded and trained in the classroom, brilliant ballerinas and principal dancers came to Tulsa to lend the Jasinskis a hand, sharing their talents on stage. Slowly, slowly the city developed a taste for the art. Slowly, slowly supporters began to fund performances. Rare lost ballets were researched and recreated. Ballet Russe favorites were revived.

From those fledgling beginnings the company grew in stature and reputation until young students who started out as bunnies, mice and soldiers in early “Nutcracker” days grew into professional dancers of such talent that they joined major companies throughout Europe and America.  

The “young son” Roman Larkin Jasinski, (who, years later, succeeded his parents as Artistic Director of Tulsa Ballet) was under that tent, along with former dancers from across the country who have danced, taught, led professional companies nationwide. All came from those early sequential companies – Tulsa Ballet Arts, Tulsa Civic Ballet, Tulsa Ballet Theatre, Tulsa Ballet. All came to cheer their predecessors and successors. All applauded a video that condensed 60 years of accolades into 15 minutes of memories.

In the 22 years that followed the Jasinski era, the current Artistic Director, Marcello Angelini, built on their foundation until Tulsa Ballet is now recognized nationally and internationally for its dancers, repertoire and creativity under Marcello’s guidance, Tulsa Ballet opened its first school. There are now two, the Hardesty Center for Dance Education in Broken Arrow and the SemGroup in Brookside. The Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition named Tulsa Ballet’s “the best school in the region.”

A small in-house theatre attracts eminent choreographers who create new works for the company. Major full-length ballets have been choreographed, costumed and produced to show off our international dancers. This year more than 1,000 aspirants auditioned personally or by video for a handful of openings in the company. Select company members are encouraged to test their choreographic talents on Tulsa Ballet II, a junior company that augments the “big” ballets, and performs its own repertoire for Tulsa-area students. And the first Tulsa student has successfully transitioned from the Center for Dance Education — to — to the main company – with hopes that others will follow in the future.

Marcello’s vision has always included “giving back” (taking Ballet to underserved communities) and “giving to the future,” creating new works that can take the name of Tulsa Ballet to companies at home and abroad.

The term “giving back” took on a whole new luster this Mother’s Day when dancers who hadn’t crossed paths in decades shared life stories and warm memories. Talk about “outreach”  Talk about “impacting the future.”  Tulsa Ballet was proud to embrace its own and to applaud the dancers who gave life, form and future to their company.

Updated 06-17-2017

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