Oklahoma City Ballet, at 50, spins ‘Future Voices’ this week at Inasmuch Theatre

By Glenda Rice Collins

Oklahoma City, Okla., USA — Oklahoma City Ballet’s upcoming Future Voices public performances, March 17-20, 2022, will showcase inspired new work from talented young choreographers, “up close” in the 190-seat Inasmuch Foundation Theater at the Susan E. Brackett Dance Center, the company’s architecturally-noteworthy Classen Blvd. headquarters.

The showcased new works provide a transitional program in which to reflect on recent contemporary ballet premieres, current company progress, and preparations to contrast and celebrate a few iconic classics soon across Oklahoma this spring. —A Unique Opportunity for Choreographic Study continues!

OKC Future Voices promo 2022

“Future Voices is a special opportunity for aspiring choreographers to be given the tools they need to create ballet,” said acting artistic director Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye, during the company’s 50th Anniversary year.

“Ballet is a challenging art form that requires space, time, music, and capable dancers, and for the month leading up to the showcase, that’s exactly what we give our dancers and choreographers. The results are wildly creative.”

Seating for Future Voices is General Admission and all tickets are $40 for non-subscribers.

 Masks are required for ALL individuals, regardless of vaccination status.

***For additional Future Voices information and tickets, click on the link at the end of this article.***

Choreographic Celebrations & Artistic Freedom

There is much to celebrate, as there is no better time, than now, to focus on the complexity of music, new American choreography, and the enrichment of international influences, as we witness continuing global threats to democracy, mobility and artistic freedoms as well.

As Michael Beardon, director of the OU School of Dance recently noted, “Now more than ever we need art in our lives, and in our world, that we may be able to (better) process our experiences, or even forget our worries temporarily, to a fixed moment in time. The power of Art is alive…the (dancers)… have channeled their talents in order to speak powerfully with their youthful artistic voices.”

Pandemic Progress Prevails During OKC Ballet’s 50th Anniversary Season

During the multitude of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic setbacks, be assured, Dance in Oklahoma is thriving, as OKC takes fuel and momentum from its pre-pandemic progress, with more to come!

For me, this week’s OKC Ballet performances offer a rare opportunity to cross reference the company’s choreographic progress during its landmark, ongoing 50th Anniversary season; with recent ‘Made in Oklahoma’ new contemporary dance works created recently at the University of Oklahoma School of Dance in Norman.

Important forthcoming spring productions statewide will soon retreat to the beloved classics, offering more staged eye candy and demanding ever-increasing physical strength, precision, virtuosity, and refined technique with which to further rate progress, with new influences to compare with the newly interpreted works of iconic dance masters’ classics of the recent, and more distant past.

***More related news features will soon follow on this website.***

DANCE: Now Trending in Oklahoma 

–Additional trends in contemporary dance choreography were also showcased during the recent “Made in the U.S.A.” mixed-bill performances staged by OKC Ballet last month at the Civic Center Music Hall.

–The late January 2022 pandemic-masked, OU University Theatre production of the popular, annual Young Choreographers’ Showcase, featuring the collaborative, creative lighting designs of Helmerich School of Drama students, took place in the Elsie C. Brackett Theatre at the expansive OU Arts District.

–Recent premieres at Tulsa Ballet spun a multi-media dance documentary of a tragic race massacre; and an elaborate tale of mafia vendettas! Yet hope, compassion, unity, resilience, beauty and healing themes were threaded throughout recent productions. Bravo!

At OKC Ballet: Made in the U.S.A. Evoked Patriotism & Dreams

The OKC Ballet’s recent mixed-bill Made in the U.S.A. performances –which paid tribute to the late Bryan Pitts work, and former artistic director Robert Mills’ more recent influence, — serves as a multi-faceted and reflective reference point where both the international, classical influences of the past, and current contemporary dance trends are well-contrasted in the details of the performance demands on refined technique and staging this season, –as shown herewith by a few images of the diverse precision pieces, as to be contrasted with the OU School of Dance choreographic trends, thus far:

OKC Ballet: Made in the U.S.A. Flashbacks

JanaCarson_Robbins work, OKC

OKC Ballet dancers celebrate the late Jerome Robbins’ 2 & 3 Part Inventions. Photo by Jana Carson.

JanaCarson_To familoar Spaces in Dreams, (Jesssica Lang)

A scene from Jessica Lang’s evocative To Familiar Spaces in Dream. OKC Ballet photo by Jana Carson.

JanaCarson-Of Dreams and Dice-Fonte

OKC Ballet excels in the world premiere of Nicolo Fonte’s vivid Of Dreams and Dice, to music by Heather Christian and the Arbornauts. Lighting design is by Aaron Mooney.  Photo by Jana Carson.

Jana Carson- Jessica Lang To Familiar Spaces

Banner photo is by Jana Carson: Jessica Lang’s staging of To Familiar Spaces in Dream for OKC Ballet.  

On Scene at University of Oklahoma School of Dance and School of Drama

New choreography shown during the late January OU University Theatre Young Choreographers’ Showcase, which featured 11 short contemporary dance works in late January involved dance student collaboration with the OU Helmerich School of Drama student lighting designers, and guest artists, during which the young choreographers created imaginative and diverse works destined for the Elsie C. Brackett Theatre stage in the OU Arts District, in Norman.

For example, Keeleigh Everett’s Somebody to Love, set to the song of the same name, by Queen, is said to represent “playing with musicality while…interpreting the song…and quite literally taking it as a plea for help.” Props included the use of several creatively handled landline phones, with stage lighting design by Gabei Williams. Two short video samples follow:

Maggie Shoenfeld’s 67, set to the music “The Girl From Ipanema,” Studio Session 67, tells of “two people coexisting, yet their interactions…never act as a catalyst” as the ‘monotony’ of the evocative music creates an atmosphere of uneasiness. Lighting design is by Cassi Crain.

Unfortunately J’aime Anastasia Griffith’s, Shrimp-N-Grits, set to music “Deja Vu” (Homecoming Live) by Beyonce, featuring JAY-Z, was omitted from the program due to the illness of the choreographer, who was also slated to perform the solo work, which program notes in a news release defined as “…an amalgamation of contemporary dance and dance performed at historically Black colleges and universities football games.”

It would have been interesting to compare Griffith’s dance vocabulary and inspiration to that of Jennifer Archibald,– Cincinnati Ballet’s first Black resident female choreographer, — the sought-after New York-based Canadian, who has set works on Tulsa Ballet several times. I still hope to interview Griffiths, to hear her story, and wish her well!

Another Oklahoma World Premiere

Significantly, In collaboration with the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, Tulsa Ballet’s October 2021 world premiere of the acclaimed Jennifer Archibald’s multi-media Breakin’Bricks included Black dancers from across the U.S. in her compassionate exploration of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Brava!

A Recent Vendetta at Tulsa Ballet

After being re-scheduled five times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s American premiere of her Vendetta, a Mafia Story, inspired by Hollywood’s “The Godfather” movie, finally hit the Tulsa PAC stage last month.

“We had hoped to be in a different place by the time of its actual premiere, definitely not facing yet another surge in the COVID pandemic,” stated  TBT artistic director Marcello Angelini. “Still, seeing the curtain raise on this (American premiere) mafia story, (was) a moment of colossal celebration!” – recently pushing the envelope further.

University of Oklahoma School of Dance

The OU School of Dance — where I studied ballet in my youth with Yvonne Chouteau and her spouse, Miguel Terekhov; as well as dance choreography with OU modern dance pioneer, the late Helen Gregory — provides another current crossroads for distinguished American choreographers, past and present,  and more inspired “future voices,” influenced by global trends. Chouteau and her spouse founded the OU Department of Dance in the university’s School of Drama during the 1960’s, now elevated to the highly-esteemed School of Dance within the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts

Yvonne Chouteau Remembered

Exemplary of American Indian ballerina Yvonne Chouteau’s influence  on expansive “future voices” are the Oklahoma City Ballet Yvonne Chouteau School; the University of Oklahoma School of Dance; and the inspiring dance studio space at the new Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, which I first visited last September. The OCAC museum officially opened just prior to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, so its full potential has yet to be experienced.

2022 Season — A Moving OKC Ballet Grand Défilé


OKC Ballet 2022 Grand Défilé finale. Photo by Jana Carson

In honor of Oklahoma City Ballet’s 50th Anniversary, the prelude to the Made in the U.S.A. performances featured a Grand Défilé (pronounced day-fil-a), a tradition of Paris Opera Ballet.

The Grand Défilé ‘parade’ and assemblage began with the engaging, youngest students from the Yvonne Chouteau School and symbolically continued ‘upward’ to the inclusion of principal dancers of the professional company.

Participants demonstrated evolving choreography, as skillfully set by Racheal Nye and Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye, as the Défilé unfolded with remarkable stage presence, and pandemic-related masks required among the younger ones! Poise prevailed, nonetheless!

Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center Dance Studio

During my somewhat spontaneous September 2021 visit to the Oklahoma Contemporary, preparator and maintenance associate Johnny Antonelli, pictured here with me, graciously guided me on an informative tour of the building and grounds. I enjoyed photographing him in the dance studio space which honors the late Yvonne Chouteau, my former ballet instructor many years ago at OU!


Oklahoma Contemporary preparator, Johnny Antonelli, is pictured at right. Photo by Glenda Rice Collins.

At a Glance: Back to the Classics this Spring

March 24 – 27, 2022

Tulsa Ballet presents Swan Lake at the Tulsa Performing Arts CenterDetails at: https://tulsaballet.org/swan-lake-2/.

April 22 – May 1, 2022

Oklahoma Festival Ballet will present The Sleeping Beauty Suite, with additional exciting new choreography by multi-disciplinary guest artist, Robyn Mineko Williams, at the OU Arts District. See additional details at: http://dance.ou.edu/performances/

May 6 – 8, 2022

Oklahoma City Ballet presents Robert Mills’ The Sleeping Beauty full-length ballet classic at the Civic Center Music Hall, featuring the OKCPhil.

See more details at: https://www.okcballet.org/performance/sleeping-beauty/.     

This Week at OKC Ballet

*** NOW: For more details and ticket information about OKC Ballet Future Voices this week, click on the link below:

Future Voices


OKC Ballet photos, provided by Oklahoma City Ballet, are attributed to photographers Jana Carson and Diana Bittle unless otherwise noted.

2022 OU University Theatre Young Choreographers’ Showcase news media preview video segments produced by Glenda Rice Collins.


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