The title of Daniel van de Laar’s new ballet, “This Must Be the End,” requires a bit of explanation.
“No,” van de Laar said, laughing, “it does not mean I’m giving up dancing or choreography. But it does have a special meaning.”
Van de Laar, who joined Tulsa Ballet in 2015 and is now a demi-soloist with the company, has created two previous ballets for TBII, Tulsa Ballet’s second company.
His latest work, which will have its world premiere as part of the “On Your Radar” program this weekend, was inspired by a recent visit to his hometown of Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
“There is this place in Rotterdam, called Bar, which was where people gathered to listen to house and disco music,” van de Laar said. “That was where I first heard that kind of music and fell in love with it.
“And the place itself created this unique kind of subculture,” he said. “It was like coming into a place where all were accepted because we were all there just to listen to the music.”
However, this past summer, van de Laar said, the government shut down Bar. So the venue’s owners decided to mark this with one last hurrah.
“It went for 72 hours straight,” van de Laar said, laughing. “And they titled it ‘This Must Be the End.’
“That got me thinking about all the big questions we ask of ourselves — who am I, am I happy, am I living the life I should?” he said. “I know too many of my friends who are already feeling burned out by life, by the pressure to succeed. And I realized, sometimes you just have to let go of all the questions we continually ask ourselves and just dance the night away.”
Van de Laar’s ballet is one of three ballets that makes up “On Your Radar,” which opens Tulsa Ballet’s 2019-2020 season.
The evening will also feature the Tulsa premiere of “Watercolor” by Jimmy Orrente, a former principal dancer with Ballet Met for 20 years, and an encore performance of “Melodia” by Tulsa Ballet resident choreographer Ma Cong that was first performed in 2006, when Cong created it for the farewell performance of the company’s prima ballerina (now assistant artistic director) Daniela Buson.
“On Your Radar” will be performed at the ballet’s two locations: its Brookside headquarters Friday and Sunday, Aug. 23 and 25, and at the Hardesty School for Dance Education in Broken Arrow on Saturday, Aug. 24.
Van de Laar studied for 10 years at The Royal Conservatory in The Hague, The Netherlands. He danced with Nederlands Dans Theater 2 before joining Scapino Ballet in Rotterdam.
“These are companies that specialize in contemporary dance, which I really enjoy,” van de Laar said. “Our school was right next door to the Nederlands Dans Theater; dancers from the school were our teachers, so I was pretty immersed in contemporary dance.”
When he graduated from the conservatory, van de Laar auditioned for 16 different companies but received no offers of employment.
“I was getting ready to go to my 17th audition, when I met up with a friend, who said she was auditioning for Tulsa Ballet,” van de Laar said. “I had heard of the company and knew that it did great repertoire. So I went to Marcello (Angelini, Tulsa Ballet artistic director) to ask if I could audition for the company. I did, and a short time later, I was offered a job.”
Since joining the company, van de Laar has been featured in such ballets as “Strictly Gershwin,” “Meal” and “The Green Table,” which earned van de Laar rave reviews from European critics when he danced the role of Death in Kurt Jooss’ classic ballet during Tulsa Ballet’s recent European tour.
Although van de Laar said that whenever he listens to music, he always comes up with images and scenes, he hadn’t thought of choreography until he was asked if he would be interested in creating a piece for TBII.
“I very quickly realized I liked it,” he said, “and with my background, I might be able to bring an interesting voice and maybe create something that had not been seen before.
“My dancing career is my first priority,” van de Laar said. “But I am interested in pursuing choreography. Working with the dancers of TBII, they are people just out of school, and they will take everything you give them and take it to a new level. In the four weeks we’ve been working on this ballet, they have really elevated this piece in ways that kind of surprise me. They are up for any challenge.”