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Oklahoma City Ballet showcases Oklahoma and world premieres with triple bill

Oklahoma City Ballet's diverse February program will feature “Carmen,” George Balanchine's “Rubies,” a new work by acclaimed choreographer Matthew Neenan — and the return of dancer Ronnie Underwood, who was featured on the reality TV show “Breaking Pointe.”
by Brandy McDonnell Published: February 2, 2014

The Oklahoma City Ballet's 2014 “triple bill” will feature the debut of the company's reimaging of a beloved ballet, the state premiere of a piece by one of the most iconic choreographers of the 20th century and the world premiere of a new work by a highly regarded contemporary choreographer.

Plus, the ballet's midwinter performance will mark the comeback of Ronnie Underwood, who returns to OKC Ballet as a principal dancer after a stint at Ballet West in Salt Lake City led to him starring in the reality TV series “Breaking Pointe.”

“I love Ronnie. Ronnie is great to work with. He was an audience favorite when he danced with us in the past … so he's a huge asset for the company. And we've already got a strong company,” said Artistic Director Robert Mills.

“And being a part of the reality show ‘Breaking Pointe,' he's got somewhat of a fan following from this TV show that was bringing our art form to more people.”

The triple bill headlined by a new version of “Carmen,” along with George Balanchine's “Rubies” and a new work by award-winning choreographer Matthew Neenan, is set for Friday through Feb. 9 at the Civic Center Music Hall.

Chic ‘Rubies'

The triple bill will open each night with “Rubies,” a portion of Balanchine's abstract neoclassical ballet “Jewels.”

“This was looked at in 1967 as the first full-length abstract ballet that didn't tell a story. He just choreographed beautiful dances where the emotion and the feelings were evoked from different jewels,” Mills said.

The company had to go through an application process with the George Balanchine Trust to be granted the rights to “Rubies,” a technically difficult piece danced to the music of Igor Stravinsky.

“Quite frankly, if the company wasn't good enough, they would not allow us to do it. So I'm really proud that we are bringing this work to Oklahoma City. It's never been seen before in the entire state of Oklahoma. It's a huge coup for us to be doing this work,” Mills said.

“This is what people don't expect: This piece, ‘Rubies,' is so sexy and fun. It's just so chic.”

World premiere

The middle portion of the program will be the world premiere of Neenan's yet-untitled new work, an abstract contemporary piece set to the music of living composer Zoe Keating. Neenan is the resident choreographer of the Pennsylvania Ballet and co-founder of Philadelphia's BalletX.

“It's so modern and avant-garde and just really fantastic,” Mills said. “Our dancers eat it up. … They get to go from en pointe in ‘Rubies,' dancing this neoclassical work, to taking the pointe shoes off and getting grounded in plie and using their torsos in this more modern work with Matthew.”

‘Carmen' closer

The triple bill closes with a new version of “Carmen,” inspired by the Prosper Merimee novella and using the famous ballet suite Rodion Shchedrin arranged from Georges Bizet's opera of the same name. OKC Ballet dance master Jacob Sparso choreographed a new neoclassical version, which sets the story in Madrid in 1936, the year the Spanish Civil War broke out.

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by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
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