Interviews, photos and video: Oklahoma City Ballet's 'Visionaries: A Triple Bill' to feature works by Balanchine, Joffrey and Cayetano Soto
An abbreviated version of this story appears in the Sunday Life section of The Oklahoman. To see more photos as a gallery, click here.
'Visionaries' of dance: OKC Ballet closing season with triple bill
Choreographer Cayetano Soto is looking for dance companies with vision.
That search brought him for the first time to Oklahoma City Ballet, where he is choreographing a new work titled “Adam” on the dancers.
“Everyone is very open and improvises so generously here. Sometimes when you go to work with a new company, you never know what to expect. I’m here for the first time, and all the doors, they were open. Nobody closed any doors on me or my creation,” Soto said.
“You always pray for the best. Creation is a risk. It could be a flop, or it could be just amazing. But this is a beautiful thing, because if companies didn’t take the risk, where are we going?”
The Barcelona, Spain-born and based choreographer will celebrate the world premiere of his new work Friday and Saturday as part of Oklahoma City Ballet’s 2018-19 season closer, “Visionaries: A Triple Bill.” The bill also will include the company premieres of famed ballets by American dance legends Robert Joffrey and George Balanchine.
“I wanted a new choreographer on an international scale to come to Oklahoma and create a new work for us. … I just knew right away that he is an incredible talent not only for developing movement that uses classically trained dancers but has them move in such a way that feels so incredibly fresh and modern and accessible. I think his work in itself, his choreography in itself, is visionary,” said OKC Ballet Artistic Director Robert Mills of Soto.
“I can tell you right now that the people, when they come into the theater … they will see something that they’ve never seen before.”
Joffrey’s "Pas de Deesses” (or “Dance of the Goddesses”) will be presented with live piano accompaniment by the OKC Philharmonic’s Peggy Payne in honor of the 30th anniversary of the dance icon's death.
“I grew up outside of Chicago. … The Joffrey Ballet would perform in Chicago annually when I was growing up. Mind you, they weren’t in Chicago yet, where they’re based now. They were based in New York, but it’s a company that I always enjoyed watching. … There was something about the Joffrey Ballet that was different. They were fresh and modern; the ideas were contemporary,” Mills said.
“That’s where this ‘Visionaries’ program began because he was such a visionary in his ideas about this art form in this country. When you know the art form of ballet in this country, of course, you also think of George Balanchine, the founder of New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet. … Those two men are really essentially in our industry are like titans.”
The bill also will include “The Four Temperaments,” one of Balanchine's earliest works in his signature neoclassical style. Set to a score Balanchine commissioned from Paul Hindemith the ballet is inspired by the medieval belief that humans are made up of four different “humors” that determine each person’s temperament: melancholic (gloomy and pensive), sanguinic (stubborn and passionate), phlegmatic (unemotional and passive), and choleric (ill-tempered and angry).
“Each one is very clearly different, but you don’t have to know the Greek mythology on these temperaments to appreciate it,” said Paul Boos, repetiteur with the George Balanchine Trust, who has been helping OKC Ballet learn the piece.
He said one of “The Four Temperaments” is closely associated with one of the five famous American Indian prima ballerinas from Oklahoma.
“There’s one particular role, Sanguinic, which is technically extremely difficult. In fact, the woman who made it famous is from Oklahoma: Maria Tallchief. She wasn’t the original, but she did maybe the second or third performance because the person it was choreographed on injured herself. And then Maria stepped in and it became her role,” Boos said. “It’s a bravura piece.”
The history and difficulty of the piece often are intimidating for dancers learning it for the first time, Boos said.
“They start out terrified because they know there are ghosts associated with these roles. And there are great, great dancers, especially ballerinas, who are associated with these roles,” he said. “The dancers are challenged, and they rise to the occasion and they really grow.”
Being included in a triple bill with such iconic choreographers is an honor, said Soto, who decided that the best approach was to just be himself when devising his new work.
He said “Adam” is a sort of follow-up to his 2005 ballet “Shooting Star,” which he dedicated to his father after he died of cancer.
“I always felt that there is something more after one person’s departure. Where does the love go? How do you think about this person? When I talk about my ballet, it is something very personal. But in the end, it’s something universal, because we go through the same feelings, and especially that one. Everybody’s going to know what it means to lose somebody that you love so much,” Soto said.
“As artists we have a tremendous responsibility right now: We have to inspire the world. It was always like that, but I think in our times, it’s even more. It’s very shaky now, the world, if you think ‘where are the leaders that they’re leaving us?’ I think it’s up to the artists to make the people believe there is something better. A civilization without art is nothing; it’s not even a civilization.”
Oklahoma City Ballet presents “Visionaries: A Triple Bill”
When: 8 pm. Friday and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker.
Tickets and information: www.okcballet.com or 843-9898.
OKC BALLET ANNOUNCES 2019-2020 SEASON
Season tickets are on sale for Oklahoma City Ballet’s newly announced 2019-2020 season, which will include the first performances in its new Susan E. Brackett Dance Center, 6800 N Classen Blvd.
Michael Pink’s “Dracula”: Oct. 25-27, Civic Center, with Oklahoma City Philharmonic.
“The Nutcracker”: Dec. 14-22, Civic Center, with OKC Philharmonic.
Robert Mills’ “Romeo and Juliet”: Feb. 14-16, Civic Center, with OKC Philharmonic.
“Future Voices: A Choreographic Showcase” (add-on production): March 13-15, Susan E. Brackett Dance Center.
“(e)motion(s)- A Triple Bill,” featuring a world premiere piece by Mills marking the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, April 17-19, 2020, Civic Center.
For season tickets and information, go to www.okcballet.org or call 848-8637.