WASHINGTON, D.C. PERFORMANCE: Tulsa Ballet performs Nacho Duato’s Por Vos Muero for the Ballet Across America tour to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
According to dance critic Alicia Chesser, what Marcello Angelini has accomplished at Tulsa Ballet since becoming artistic director in 1995 is to see what a community-based arts revolution looks like. Under Angelini’s expert and creative guidance, Tulsa Ballet has achieved global renown and acclaim for its superb quality and its diverse and challenging repertoire; and in doing so has brought international recognition to Tulsa and all of Oklahoma.
The most recent example of Tulsa Ballet’s enduring ability to draw respect and appreciation for Tulsa’s performing arts is its performance at the most prominent performing arts venue in the country, the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on June 20. This biennial Ballet Across America tour invited Tulsa Ballet and other top dance companies including The Joffrey Ballet, Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, to showcase their talents on the national stage. Tulsa Ballet performed Nacho Duato’s Por Vos Muero, set to 15th and 16th century Spanish music and recorded lines from a love poem by Garcilaso de la Vega. The performance was superb, inspired and moving, drawing high praise from critics and audiences. Tulsa Ballet Managing Director Scott Black says, “Being invited to perform at the Kennedy Center event demonstrates the elite status that Tulsa Ballet has achieved. It’s an honor for us to be regarded so highly on a national and international level, and to bring positive attention to Tulsa.”
Black says one of the lesser known criteria of an elite dance company is its ability to perform the works of top-tier choreographers such as George Balanchine, James Kudelka and Kenneth MacMillan. “You have to earn the right, meaning be reviewed and receive permission, to perform their works.” He adds, “Tulsa Ballet has earned the right to perform important works by internationally acclaimed choreographers. The quality of our dance company is extremely high and we’re trusted to perform these works very well.”
Tulsa Ballet performs world-class works with the professionalism and quality demanded of top dance companies, and it does so with a smaller budget and fewer dancers. Black says, “Our budget is smaller than, for example, Houston. We have 28 professional dancers. Houston has twice as many. Yet we’re performing the same ballets, at the same level.” Melinda Gable, Tulsa Ballet marketing director, adds, “Our dancers work extremely hard and it shows in the quality of the performances and the level of respect that critics and audiences have for us.”
Black attributes Tulsa Ballet’s success in part to the diversity and well-roundedness of its dancers. “Marcello selects dancers who can dance in both classical and contemporary styles. It broadens our repertoire and offers our audiences a wider exposure to the world of dance.” Angelini travels all over the world to audition dancers for the company. Black says. “We have dancers representing 14 countries. It brings a global dimension to Tulsa.” Gable adds, “It also shows how well-known and respected Tulsa Ballet is on an international scale. Dancers all over the world want to dance for Tulsa Ballet.”
Tulsa Ballet brings dancers from all over the world to Tulsa, and it also takes its dancers all over the world. Black mentions Portugal, Korea and Europe as a few of places Tulsa Ballet has performed and says, “We’re looking at opportunities to participate in international festivals next year in Central America, Spain and other places.”
When asked about some common misperceptions that people have about the ballet, Black says, “People tend to think that going to the ballet is expensive. In fact, people can buy Tulsa Ballet tickets starting at $15.” He adds, “Actually, tickets to the ballet can cost less than events at the Center, the Opera, and Celebrity Attractions.”
Another misperception people have he says is that ballet is a “feminine thing.” Not everything is “toe-shoes and tutus” Black says. “The dancers’ athleticism and strength is extraordinary and extremely impressive to watch. Ballet requires an exceedingly high level of coordination, strength, grace, timing and flexibility. Ballet dancers rank as well-trained athletes.”
Gable adds, “There’s also the misperception that ballet is an “elite art form.” Maybe in some places it is, but here it’s not.” She mentions Studio K, located at the Tulsa Ballet studios in the Brookside area. Studio K is a fantastic venue for people to enjoy the world of dance, culture and pop culture. It’s casual, energizing and a great way to step into the amazing world of the performing arts. Gable says, “We welcome people to come as they are, in jeans and tennis shoes if they want. We’re not exclusive. We want everyone to enjoy the world of dance and what Tulsa Ballet has to offer.”
For more information about Tulsa Ballet, visit www.tulsaballet.org