Russian ballet in Oklahoma: cultural synergy celebrated in ‘Don Quixote’

By Glenda Rice Collins   (Updated 2-7-17)

Part I of a two-part focus: celebrating the synergy of cultural diversity in the arts*

EDMOND, Okla. — The excitement, brilliance and buoyancy of Mikhail Baryshnikov‘s fast-paced 1983 staging of the Don Quixote ballet (after Marius Petipa) was brought to life again last week by the touring  dancers of the Russian National Ballet Theatre, featured  at the opulent  Armstrong Auditorium — a  stunning reminder of the artistic (and personal) merits of embracing cultural diversity and global travel.

Baryshnikov’s buoyant Don Quixote version demands, and commands, non-stop celebration of the ebullient  Ludwig Minkus score, to which the Russian company does justice.20170131_don-quixote-performance-2-8103341 With the dynamic swirling of red and black capes, the flourishes of glittering hand fans, the flash of the Spanish duende, daring leaps, high extensions, fancy footwork, and rhythmic accents of abundant, hand-held  tambourines, the audience is transported to another world of both refined elegance and eloquent Flamenco-influenced flourish & fire — all set in classical Spain in courtly style, showcasing the great Flamenco tradition.  Brava and bravo to all!

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The Russian company is scheduled to perform Giselle, tonight  (Feb. 7) at the Bankhead Theater in  Livermore, California; and will soon travel  to Florida for February performances in Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, and Sarasota, during a four-month tour of the U.S.

Of the touring ballet company,  Armstrong Auditorium  director of marketing and public relations Shane Granger, notes  that “their sets used on stage here are from the original Bolshoi Theatre.”  And indeed they are resplendent, as are the young, vivacious dancers, as evidenced by their recent Oklahoma performances.

Celebrating Cultural Diversity

Using Russian influence, as one example of plentiful  cultural diversity in the arts, the referenced  Russian premier danseur extraordinaire, actor  and Don Quixote choreographer Baryshnikov, was  himself a defector of international notoriety:  to Canada in 1974, and to the U.S. in 1986. In now staging his Don Q production in the U.S., the Russian National Ballet honors ‘one of their own,’ as well as the history of the famed Bolshoi Theatre in their motherland.

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Russian National Ballet Theatre photos provided, courtesy of Armstrong Auditorium

Original Don Quixote ballet choreographer, the French-Russian Marius Petipa was born in Marseille, France in 1818. Becoming known as “the father of classical ballet (and Russian ballet), he later worked for nearly 60 years at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, according to britannica.com.  His Don Quixote ballet premiered  at the Bolshoi Theatre in  Moscow in 1869.

Ballet composer  and violinist Ludwig Minkus, born in Vienna in 1826, made his Paris debut as a composer at age 20, in 1846, with his Paquita, a ballet set in Napoleonic Spain — jointly written with Edward Deldevez.  From 1864 -1871, Minkus was the official ballet composer for the Bolshoi.

According to author Zoe Anderson  in the book The Ballet Lover’s Companion, “Petipa loved Spanish dancing…(and) he remembers dancing the fandango and other traditional dances, saying with pride “I danced and played the castanets no worse than the best dancers of Andalusia.”

  • Thanks in large part to the famed American Ballet Theatre former artistic director Bayishnikov’s enduring Don Quixote production being broadcast nationwide on public television from the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center years ago, the ballet achieved immense popularity with its captivating choreography and engaging, high-spirited music.
  • Armstrong Auditorium program notes convey: “Russian National Ballet Theatre (formerly the Soviet National Ballet) was founded during the transitional period of Perestroika in the late 1980’s, when many of the great dancers and choreographers of the Soviet Union’s ballet institutions were exercising their new-found creative freedom…dedicated not only to the timeless tradition of classical Russian Ballet, but to invigorate this tradition (by accepting) new developments in the dance from around the world.”
  • The Russian National Ballet Theatre embarked on a four-month national tour of the U.S. last month. Selected by presidential decree, Elena Radchenko assumed the first permanent artistic directorship of  the company in 1994, now focused on upholding the grand, national tradition of the major Russian ballet works. One company goal is to reach audiences in smaller places, not just large cities.

The Armstrong Auditorium 2016-2017 Performing Arts Series continues with featured multi-cultural performances by: The Five Irish Tenors, February 21; National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, March 9; Jerusalem String Quartet, March 23; and Eroica Trio, April 27.  For  additional information and tickets, call 405.285.1010 or visit http://www.armstrongauditorium.org.

Tulsa Ballet: Don Quixote Past & Future 

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Tulsa Ballet Don Quixote sneak peak for 2017

TULSA–The multi-cultural and well-travelled Tulsa Ballet brings Anne-Marie Holmes’ staging of  Don Quixote (after Petipa)  to the Tulsa Performing Arts Center November 3 – 5, 2017. Holmes, whom TB artistic director Marcello Angelini refers to as being called “the ultimate authority in classical ballet” has, among other noteworthy distinctions,  a Don Quixote history with Tulsa Ballet, as referenced  by Susan Everly-Douze in a September 18, 1992 article, ‘Don Quixote’ Styled on First Bolshoi Production, for the Tulsa World:

“Tulsa Ballet Theater’s (1992) premiere Friday of “Don Quixote” reaffirms the Ballet Russe roots that won Tulsa’s homegrown company its national stature, says artistic director Roman L. Jasinski.

“Weaving the entire extravaganza together is Anna-Marie Holmes, assistant to the director of Boston Ballet, who staged the (1992) Tulsa premiere.  Holmes, the first North American to dance with the Kirov Ballet in Russia, is known internationally for her interpretation of Russian classics…(She said) her staging of the ballet  (is) mostly faithful to the Kirov Ballet version with her own adaptations to keep the pace lively.”

Diamond Anniversary Season Continues

Serving as Tulsa Ballet artistic director since 1995, the Italian visionary leader, Marcello Angelini,  says that for the company’s 2017 presentation of Don Quixote in November, “tradition follows innovation,” in reference to a TBT ongoing 60th Anniversary  season which this year continues with  innovation in the celebration of new works.

Still, deservedly, reveling in the international success and rave reviews received during the company’s acclaimed 2016  “Masters of Dance” Italian tour, the Naples, Italy native and Kiev Institute of Dance-trained Angelini looks forward to a 2017-2018 Tulsa Ballet season that will balance the traditional classics with more innovation, and the contributions of three featured, distinguished women choreographers.

He says, “We must consider the cultural values, growth potential, innovation and tradition ratios while balancing the political and cultural weight (of the ballets presented)” throughout the seasons. Going beyond sheer entertainment value, the ballets carry diverse, often profound messages, utilizing the international language of communication — the arts.  (For example, the political implications of The Green Table (1932), by German master choreographer Kurt Jooss, slated for the 2017-18 Tulsa Ballet season).

NOW: Another World Premiere

The impending world premiere of Taiwan-born, American choreographer Edwaard Liang‘s Dorothy and the Prince of Oz,  will debut at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center this weekend, February 10 – 12, 2017. Featuring music by librettist and composer Oliver Peter Graber (librettist of the Vienna State Opera), performed live by Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, principal conductor is Peter Stafford Wilson.

Angelini’s classical staging of Swan Lake is slated for March 24 – 26 at the Tulsa PAC; and the TBII Emerging Choreographers Showcase is set for April 21 & 23 at Tulsa Ballet’s Studio K Theater.  Tulsa Ballet’s Signature Series will feature Angelini’s favorite recent works, May 11 – 14 at the Lorton Performance Center, The University of Tulsa.

* (Read more about upcoming diverse ballets in articles coming soon to this website).

For Tulsa Ballet ticket information, call 918.749.6006 or visit http://www.tulsaballet.org.

# # # # #Glenda Rice Collins 2-7-17    (C)All Rights Reserved.

 

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