Tulsa to premiere Moultrie ballet
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Sunday, April 22, 2012
4/22/12 at 4:46 AM
As a choreographer, Darrell Grand Moultrie moves with surprising ease among three different worlds.
He's done Broadway, most recently as a member of the original Broadway production of the musical "Billy Elliot." He's also choreographed a number of TV commercials, creating artful moves to help sell such products as razors, hair products and credit cards.
But Moultrie is becoming best known for his work with classical and contemporary dance troupes. His edgy, explosive works have been commissioned and performed by Colorado Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Ballet Met Columbus and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
His newest work, "Box the Outside," is one of the three world premiere ballets that make up "Off the Floor: Creations in Studio K," which Tulsa Ballet will present this weekend.
"I love being able to do all these things, but creating dances - that's my true love," Moultrie said. "I simply love to work with dancers. You know that these people - these incredible athletes - have made a lot of sacrifices to pursue this career. They give their all every time, so I need to do that as well when I make a dance for them."
And Moultrie's other work all feeds into the choreography he creates.
"What I think my Broadway experience adds is a sense of theatricality," he said. "I haven't done any story ballets, and this work for Tulsa is a pure movement piece, but I'm very much aware of trying to create a theatrical experience.
"And commercials," Moultrie said, laughing. "Well, with those, you always have a client who is constantly telling you what they don't like. So it's up to you to have dozens of ideas ready to go because before the commercial is done, you're going to need most of them."
When Moultrie came to Tulsa to begin work on "Box the Outside," he said all the preparation he had made was to select the music he wanted to accompany the ballet.
"It's one of the scariest experiences in your life," he said, laughing. "To walk into a place where you've never been before and come up on the spot with something for these very talented people to do. I didn't have a single step in my head when I got here, and in 10 days, we had a 25-minute ballet."
While there is no narrative to "Box the Outside," Moultrie said the title of the piece is a good example of his dance philosophy.
"People always talk about thinking or doing things 'outside the box,' " he said. "Well, obviously, what is 'outside the box' is what should be contained within you - you should embrace whatever it is that goes against your comfort zone. It's not something you should fear, but something you should master."
This shows up in Moultrie's choreography.
"I want to give dancers a ballet that will challenge them in every way," he said. "Not just physically, but artistically, musically, intellectually."
A native of Harlem, Moultrie's interest in the performing arts began early. His elementary school teacher was a great fan of musical theater and would stage elaborate productions with the students.
"We would do things like 'Oklahoma!,' 'My Fair Lady,' " he said. "I remember that 'My Fair Lady' because we did the Ascot scene in full black and white dress, the girls in these huge hats. And this was in elementary school!"
Moultrie entered the New York High School for the Performing Arts (the so-called "Fame" high school), with an eye toward studying opera.
"I loved to sing, but I knew that I probably wasn't good enough at it to make a career," he said. "In any case, dance was what I loved, so I switched."
He ultimately graduated from the Juilliard School, where his dance creations first started earning widespread notice. He performed with the Lar Lubovitch company and took part in such productions as the first performance of "West Side Story" at the La Scala theatre in Milan, Italy; "Hairspray" and "The Color Purple."
Last summer, he put together a company called Dance Grand Moultrie that performed in New York City. But he's not quite ready to give up the freelance choreographer lifestyle.
"Dance Grand Moultrie might grow into something more," he said. "But the way I look at it, I'm 34, so I think I have a few more years before I'm ready to settle down with a dance company."
Original Print Headline: Tulsa to present Moultrie ballet
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478
"I simply love to work with dancers. You know that these people - these incredible athletes - have made a lot of sacrifices to pursue this career. They give their all every time, so I need to do that as well when I make a dance for them," says choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie. The Tulsa Ballet will present Moultrie's "Box the Outside" this weekend as part of "Off the Floor: Creations in Studio K." Courtesy