Tulsa Ballet wows NYC
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
8/12/09 at 3:22 AM
NEW YORK — Maybe it's been more than two decades since Tulsa Ballet has performed in New York City, but the dance company seemed perfectly at home Monday night as it opened its week of performances at the Joyce Theater.
The company performed three ballets that, in their technical and dramatic demands, were selected to show the depth and the range of the dancers' ability — and to show New York audiences that the repertoire the company routinely performs is on a level with that of the major ballet companies of the nation and the world.
The program included Kenneth MacMillan's "Elite Syncopations," a contemporary work by the great English choreographer that uses classical techniques in very unconventional ways, and is set to a score of ragtime music; "Por vos Muero," one of Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato's greatest works, in which extremely fast and fluid movement is used to evoke a world of emotions from childlike playfulness to the wrenching pain of loss; and "This Is Your Life," Young Soon Hue's tango-and-TV inspired creation for Tulsa Ballet that since its debut in Tulsa last year is already in the repertoire of three international dance companies.
And the company's performance more than rose to the occasion. As an ensemble, their work was tightly meshed so that, when necessary, it was as if the couple of dozen people on stage (as in the final segment of "Elite Syncopations" or the Masks scene in "Por vos Muero") were moving as one. Yet the individuality of the dancers was equally on display, in vignettes that ranged from knock-about comedy to romantic tenderness to furious anger.
The evening also allowed those familiar with Tulsa Ballet to see some dancers in new roles. Beatrice Sebelin, for example, had the role of the "other woman" in the Pas de Trois with Wang Yi and Kate Oderkirk from "This Is Your Life" (a part originated by Alexandra Bergman, out on maternity leave), and she gave a superb performance, full of desperation and desire. In the same ballet, Soo Youn Cho, just back with the company after an injury kept her from dancing last season, took over for Marit van der Wolde in the Tango Pas de Deux with Mugen Kazama — in part because the visual comedy of the compact Kazama and the very tall van der Wolde had already been exploited to great effect in the "Alaskan Rag" segment of "Elite Syncopations."
And there were myriad pleasures that Tulsa Ballet audiences have come to expect from this company when it dances these ballets: the breathtaking interaction, culminating in a perfectly executed, final, upside-down lift, between Alfonso Martin and Karina Gonzalez in the "Bethana Waltz" in "Elite Syncopations," balanced by their tender, poignant dancing in the Love Pas de Deux from "This Is Your Life"; Ma Cong's rage-filled solo in the "Businessmen" dance in "This Is Your Life"; the macho, athletic comedy of that ballet's "Chair Dance," and Ricardo Graziano's outrageous shattering of the fourth wall in the "Beauty Salon" segment; Wang's exuberant "Friday Night Rag" solo.
One could also include
pretty much the entirety of "Por vos Muero," which remains one of the most physically and emotionally stunning works Tulsa Ballet has ever performed. And Monday's performance was one of the best of this work that we've seen Tulsa Ballet do.
Each of the three ballets was received enthusiastically by the capacity crowd in the Joyce Theater, with the audience reserving a standing ovation for "This is Your Life," and for choreographer Young Soon Hue, who was in attendance.
It might be inexact to describe the people who filled the 472 seats of the Joyce Theater on Monday night as a "New York audience," as the majority of the people at the show were from Tulsa and Oklahoma. Among those in the crowd were Gov. Brad Henry and first lady Kim Henry, Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor, former mayor and now Oklahoma Secretary of State Susan Savage, TV personality Becky Dixon, and a few dozen Tulsa Ballet board members and patrons.
Taylor said she had brought with her to the performance some former Tulsans now living in New York. "And they were just blown away by what they saw," she said. "They said they were beaming with Tulsa pride and were going to tell everyone they knew to try and see Tulsa Ballet while it's here in New York.
"It is wonderful to be able to show the great culture and community support that exists in Tulsa, here in the nation's cultural capital," Taylor said.
The evening also brought out some New Yorkers with Tulsa ties, including dance legend Freddie Franklin, whose association with Tulsa Ballet goes back to the company's inception, and artist Patrick S. Gordon.
Scott Black, Tulsa Ballet managing director, said close to 300 Oklahomans are expected to attend the Tulsa Ballet performances at the Joyce Theater during the course of its week here.
"It was a nicely diverse program that showed the dancers' qualities very well," said Joyce executive director Linda Shelton. "I'm very pleased the company lived up to our expectations."
James D. Watts Jr. 581-8478
Tulsa Ballet staged Nacho Duato's "Por vos Muero" — which it performed in Tulsa in 2007 — at New York's Joyce Theater on Tuesday. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World file