The artistic director of any performing arts organization would be wise to model himself after Janus, the mythological Roman god who was able to see the past as well as the future. For while an arts organization must preserve its past, it should also seek to enrich its repertoire with new works.
For his fifth season as artistic director of the Oklahoma City Ballet, Robert Mills wanted to have an appropriate celebration to kick off the company's 2012-13 season. After mulling over several ideas, he ultimately decided to showcase his dancers in three works that are new to the company.
Titled “Director's Choice,” the grand opening will feature Anthony Tudor's “Lilac Garden,” a neoclassical ballet set in the Edwardian era, Nicolo Fonte's “Left Unsaid,” a ballet built on an undercurrent of implicit human relationships, and Margo Sappington's “Cobras,” a sultry work that blends the tango and ballet.
“Artistic directors usually deal with (choosing) works that will stretch their dancers, showcase the dancers' unique talents and what will sell tickets,” Mills said. “I really just wanted to do works that I love.
“I danced ‘Lilac Garden' and ‘Cobras' so those ballets are special to me because of that. And when I saw ‘Left Unsaid' in Denver, it brought me to tears. These three works couldn't be more different and are also new to this company. Audiences will get to see very different facets of ballet and what is possible with classically trained dancers.”
About the pieces
The British-born Anthony Tudor is known as one of the great choreographers of the 20th century. For many years, he was resident choreographer of American Ballet Theatre. “Lilac Garden,” which is set to Ernest Chausson's “Poeme,” was one of the first ballets that company asked him to restage and it remains one of his signature works.
“It's the story of a young woman who attends a garden party on the eve of her marriage to a man she doesn't love,” Mills said. “You see through dance the story of this woman's evening, her life at the party, and most of all, the emotional context of the people on stage. It takes the classical context of ballet and pointe work and extends it to a whole new level.”
“Left Unsaid,” which dates from 2003, combines music from the Baroque — Johann Sebastian Bach's “Partita No. 2 in D Minor” — with classical technique. But it's more than just dancing to music, Mills points out, adding that the ballet's emotional context drives the choreography.
The evening's finale, “Cobras,” puts the women in heels and the men in tuxes. The sensuous rhythms of Astor Piazzolla's tangos underscore the 1986 ballet's narrative, an exploration of the conflicts between the masculine and feminine influences that exist in all of us.
“Many people think of ballet as tulle skirts, pointe shoes and tiaras,” Mills said. “And it is all that. But there's so much more to ballet. There's a range of ideas and styles from across the decades that interests me.
“I'm so excited about these ballets because they show the company off tremendously. When you see them put together, there's an obvious through line of interpersonal relationships. I'm proud that our company is able to do these works and execute them beautifully.”
Audiences will get to see very different facets of ballet.”