Tulsa Ballet Review: Signature Series
March 6, 2021 | Digital Live Stream
I’m sipping on a cortado when the stage manager’s vocal reminder about the prohibition of photography, videography, and mask-removing interrupts the strings of Bach’s Cello Suites. Gulping what’s left in my 4.5 oz glass, I excitedly settle into the seat which will be my comfort during the next sixty minutes. Tulsa Ballet’s third performance of its 2021 Signature Series program is about to start and I don’t want to miss a thing.
Although my final futzing before the ballet starts consists of situating my headphones and enlarging the YouTube viewing area on my laptop to full screen, there are dozens who are live at the company’s Studio K Theater checking one last time that their mobile devices have been switched off.
During the past twelve months, very few arts organizations in the world can lay claim to a consistent and continuous performance season. Tulsa Ballet is part of this elite group that has successfully presented live shows to audiences, albeit small ones. They have also continued to offer a digital companion to those who cannot make it to the theatre whether for health or distance reasons, surely a trend that will stick for the foreseeable future.
Bohuslav Martinů’s cinematic score immediately resonates with me and I make a quick mental note about this as eight of Tulsa Ballet’s bare-legged dancers come out of silhouette and into the light. Andrew McNicol’s world premiere of What If? has begun.
The gorgeous shapes created by hip leaning, intricate partnering, and prominent profiles complemented by effective lighting and the driving pulse of the music draw me further into the geometry of not only the cast’s costumes but to the overall architecture of the piece.
There is an overwhelming sense of familiarity as the graceful and powerful team that is Tulsa Ballet continues to fill the stage in their revolving solos, duets, and trios. They often transition with a purposeful run, their arms gradually opening the space ahead of them, palms open as if pushing away any obstacles.
Then it hits me… Choo San Goh’s In the Glow of the Night!
I add this observation to my list-of-things-to-investigate and thoroughly enjoy the rest of what feels like a beautiful contemporary homage to the great Chinese choreographer.*
If they weren’t presented as such or if I hadn’t read the program, I would have no reason to suspect that the dancers in Yury Yanowsky’s at the end of are from TBII, Tulsa Ballet’s second company. I continue to be impressed by the capacity of these young artists.
A testimony to both their, leadership’s, and Yanowsky’s efforts, the ten-member cast with women donned in Petit Mort reminiscent corsets are an incredibly synchronized force. They are so meticulous and, just as is the case in the main company, they pay an acute attention to physical and emotional energy that extends beyond their extremities and eyes. Be it in their pedestrian crossings or balletic feats, the intention to be at their most is clear.
No wonder that these talents can progress seamlessly into their parent or other professional companies.
Unsure if this was Jennifer Archibald’s intention or not when she choreographed it on Tulsa Ballet in 2018, PARHELIA feels to me like the dance version of Mad Max. And this is a good… no, an amazing thing!
Led by Maine Kawashima and Jun Masada on a stage whose warm glow sometimes radiates behind them and at moments is the drawing force downstage left, the intensity of classical and contemporary movement that PARHELIA is built on is magnified by the music that accompanies it.
The piece is set to a medley of songs that range from ominous to urgent to tribal which provide a perfect partner to the varying moods throughout. Again, the dancers are extremely focused, invested, and committed to each moment; they are clean, they are confident, and dare I say, they are badass.
Tulsa Ballet’s Signature Series runs through March 14th, the last performance a rebroadcast of a previously filmed show.
* Research the following morning confirms the impact music has had on the soul of yours truly, even decades later. The music used by Choo San Goh for In the Glow of the Night is indeed also composed by Bohuslav Martinů.
Featured Photo of Principals Madalina Stoica and Arman Zazyan in What If? by Andrew McNicol © Tulsa Ballet
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