John Krasno readily admits he was much more acquainted with the two coasts of the country than with Oklahoma City, which he visited just briefly 20 years ago during a movie production. Oklahoma City represented a drastic change for Krasno, who arrived one year ago to take over a reorganized Oklahoma City Ballet that almost faced doing its final show. "Two years ago, it was close,” Krasno said. "Half the town wanted to let the Tulsa Ballet company come take over, and the Tulsa Ballet and Robert Mills (now the Oklahoma City Ballet artistic director) made presentations. The community voted to keep the ballet, and Robert really made it worth their while.” Krasno was looking for a change when he left for Oklahoma City — a desire he says is shared by the Oklahoma City Ballet board of directors. The ballet has provided free outdoor performances downtown, paraded along Park Avenue for Halloween and taught dance to the vision impaired in conjunction with New Vision. "One of the missions handed to me was that we needed to drive more into the city,” Krasno said. "It's about defining the role and mission of the ballet — and we do it as a civic, educational and cultural asset to the community.” Krasno recently visited with The Oklahoman about his life and career. Q: Let's go back to when you a kid: Given a choice between attending a ballet show or watching a re-enactment of an Old West gunfight, which entertainment wins out? A: Both are out. I never had an interest in either. I never saw ballet until I was 19 or 20, and I never had an interest in gunfights. Q: I understand a ballet dancer was responsible for getting you interested in the performing arts? A: Yes — a ballerina — she was the most fascinating, creative upbeat woman I had ever met up to that point. She was a life-changing experience for me, and it led me to want to learn more about ballet, as well. Q: How did you make the transition from an English degree to ballet? A: I took ballet a few years later. For about 10 years. I did it primarily to meet girls. That was 90 percent why I did it — though I definitely enjoyed it. I built a career in the entertainment business, particularly the movie business. Then with the urging of friends, I started helping friends on artistic ventures, first helping them as an outside, and then running them. Q: Tell me about your career in the movie business. A: I was senior executive at Panavision for 10 years. We saw phenomenal growth and success. In New York, I was president of a production company that produced shows and documentaries, especially for HBO. Q: You grew up in Los Angeles. How prominent is the ballet in what is one of the largest cities in America? A: It's not very prominent at all. It's not ever been a ballet town. Now, in New York, it's definitely a ballet town, and for dance it's the center of the universe. Q: Did you travel much growing up? A: I didn't start traveling until I was in the movie business, and then I got to travel all the time. Q: How long has it been since you left the movie business? A: Three years. There was a period where I left, when it turned high-tech, and I left to run an off Broadway company where it was a mess and I helped turn it around. It was great fun. Q: Do you look at movies and wish you were still in the business? A: No. I still have a lot of filmmakers as friends, and I participate in a modest way. One Charlie Evans, has come in, given significant amounts to the ballet. Q: Did you get to visit the deadCenter Film Festival this past year? A: I live downtown across from where they have opening night, so I got to watch it from my window. But the ballet keeps me running all the time.Comments
Personally speaking→Position: Director of the Oklahoma City Ballet. →Age: 57. →Hometown: Born in Milwaukee, raised in Los Angeles. →Education: Bachelor's in English, UCLA. →Reading: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson. →Listening: Randy Newman.