Oklahoma City Ballet presents a showcase of four pieces in “Masters and Moderns.” The show includes two masterworks from two of the 20th century’s most influential choreographers, plus two world premieres from two artists making a name for themselves in 21stcentury dance.
“Masters and Moderns” came about out of a desire to be able to showcase the best in established dance while also promoting new work.
“I thought it would be an interesting evening for an audience to see a progression of ballet in America over the past few decades,” said Robert Mills, OKC Ballet artistic director. “‘Valse Fantaisie’ was created in 1967; ‘Light Rain’ was created nearly 20 years later in 1981, and of course, there will be two new world-premiere ballets each with its own take on contemporary ballet today.”
“Valse Fantaisie” was created by George Balanchine, regarded as the foremost choreographer of the 20th century, instrumental in bringing ballet to the United States.
“Balanchine created his own style of ballet by taking the existing classical ballet idiom and stripping it of what he saw as extraneous elements,” Mills said. “He wanted dance for dance’s sake. No story, no elaborate costumes. No pantomime. Just music and dance.”
As a result, “Valse Fantaisie” is a plotless dance set to the music of Mikhail Glinka. Mills described the piece as fun, fast and light, but technically demanding for the principal dancers and the company as a whole.
Gerald Arpino’s “Light Rain”
is described as a slick and energetic ensemble work with music composed by Douglas Adams and Russ Gauthier. Mills selected it because it highlights youth and energy, a perfect fit for OKC Ballet’s current company of dancers.
One of the two world premieres is from Jessica Lang, who Mills said is one of ballet’s most sought-after choreographers.
“Jessica’s work has been seen in Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia and New York and is very beautiful,” he said. “She has a way with creating patterns with the dancers onstage. Her choreography is very visceral, and although doesn’t always tell a story, it creates a mood and atmosphere that resonates with the human spirit.”
The final performance will be a new work from Mills, utilizing the music of Philip Glass. Mills set out to challenge himself by creating a ballet with only dance and music, and no story.
“Much of my work is derived from a personal place, so it’s a stretch for me to create dance just for dance’s sake,” he said.
Using the music as the springboard, Mills wanted to experiment with this piece. For instance, in one section, he had dancers draw random numbers representing a different place on the stage, and worked with them to manipulate their movements based on where the numbers told them to go.
“It was an experiment in controlled randomness and a very collaborative process. It gave me a very different outcome than if I had just told them where to go myself,” he said.
Prior to Saturday’s opening night is an informal lecture at 7 p.m. with a Q-and-A with Mills, choreographer Jessica Lang and Maia Wilkins from the Arpino Trust. Starting at 1 p.m. before the Sunday performance, children may take part in a Kids Kamp, a free educational event in the Civic Center lobby with costumes and dance lessons.