NORMAN -- The University of Oklahoma School of Dance (SOD) will present highlights from the Oklahoma Festival Ballet’s (OFB) recent appearances in Austria at an upcoming Dance Partners event.
Participants will also be updated about new developments and acquisitions of the Ballets Russes Archive at the meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, in Room 3002 of the Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center.
Dance Partners was organized in 2003 to provide support for SOD endeavors, especially scholarships. Charles Oppenheim is the current president.
Oklahoma Festival Ballet toured Austria Aug. 2 through 12 as participants in the Classical Music Festival, hosted this year in the Esterhazy Palace in Eisenstadt.. Dancers and 30 singers from Oklahoma presented Joseph Haydn’s Creation (Die Schöpfung) on Aug. 8-9 with the Festival Chorus and Orchestra, a group assembled from worldwide applicants.
The Austrian premiere with original choreography occurred at Esterházy Palace. Dances were created by Mary Margaret Holt, director of SOD, and faculty member Steve Brule. Performances were conducted by Richard Zielinski, director of choral activities and chair of graduate choral studies at OU.
OFB gave the American premiere of The Creation with the OU Symphony Orchestra and singers from several OU and local choirs on April 14, 2012. Walter Reicher, president of the Classical Music Festival, attended the performance and consequently invited OFB to join the program at the festival in Eisenstadt.
Holt said: “The tour to Austria surpassed even our very high expectations. Eisenstadt is a lovely, historic city and it was an amazing experience to visit sites where Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart worked and conducted their music. The gala performance on August 9 was sold out and a balcony area that's opened only rarely was used to help accommodate the capacity-plus audience.
"This was the first time ballet was included as part of the Classical Music Festival and the first time The Creation was presented as a ballet with orchestra and chorus. We were uncertain as to how it would be received but the 10-minute ovation following the performance was clear proof of the audience's approval and appreciation for the performance.
"During the reception that followed, our dancers were surrounded by audience members praising their professionalism and artistry. The tour was an enormous success and we were delighted to be invited to perform at the Haydn Festspiele in 2014.”
Besides the choreographers, others who accompanied the production were stage manager Christopher Sadler, lighting designer Kirk Fitzgerald, fourteen dancers and patrons Jim and Molly Crawley, as well as June and Andy Morfoupolos.
After a 2005 Norman screening of Dan Geller and Danya Goldfine’s documentary Ballets Russes, the film director, along with former ballerina Yvonne Chouteau, asked attendees: “What are we going to do with all our memorabilia?”
The question prompted Holt to organize OU’s Ballets Russes Archive, a specialty collection for research that houses materials from three companies: Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Col. de Basil’s Original Ballet Russe and Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. To date, more than 70 contributors have sent such items as photographs, contracts, correspondence, scores, video tapes and film.
In 2011, through the office of the Vice President for Research, a Faculty Challenge Grant was established, an opportunity for all OU academics to apply. As principal researcher for the Ballets Russes Archive, Camille Hardy submitted a proposal entitled “Shaping the Information Future of Dance Research: Joint Challenge Grant Proposal from OU’s School of Dance and School of Library and Information Studies.”
Hardy was awarded $100,000 to support a two-year process of preserving archival materials and preparing all for digitization, ultimately to make the Ballets Russes Archive available to local students and faculty and international scholars.
The grant funds provide payment for a part-time librarian, Jeri Smalley, and three graduate assistants, one from dance and two from the School of Library and Information Studies. One of the latter, Tara M. Davis, was awarded a 2012 summer internship for archival specialists by the Dance Heritage Coalition.
Smalley will inform Dance Partners as to recent developments in the archive. The Dance Partners event will close with refreshments and conversation with dancers and faculty.
The University of Oklahoma’s program in dance was founded in 1963 by Yvonne Chouteau and Miguel Terekhov, former principal dancers with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. What had been a department became the School of Dance in 1998 with Mary Margaret Holt as director.
Undergraduate and graduate dance majors, along with general education students, total approximately 1000 enrollees in dance classes per semester. The School of Dance’s state-of-the-art facility in the Donald W. Reynolds Performing Art Center was completed in 2005.