France helped make the once-scandalous cancan famous while Italy gave the world the frenetic tarantella, two popular dance forms that will figure prominently on the Oklahoma City Ballet's upcoming triple bill.
“Paris Rouge,” a 2006 ballet choreographed by company artistic director Robert Mills when he headed Colorado's Ballet Nouveau, will be restaged for this production. Set in a chic cabaret in turn-of-the-20th-century Paris, the ballet thrusts a group of mismatched characters into an atmosphere of flirtation and jealousy.
Featuring music from Offenbach's “Gaite Parisienne” and “Orpheus and the Underworld,” the latter gaining notoriety for its sparkling cancan, “Paris Rouge” culminates with the cabaret star and her secret lover finally finding happiness.
Mills' choreography will also be spotlighted in an encore presentation of “Pushing Pennies,” a work he created in 2011 for this company. Using music from Philip Glass' “Violin Concerto No. 2” and his “String Quartet No. 3,” this abstract ballet was an experiment in controlled randomness.
The dancers' entrances, exits and the areas in which they perform on stage were decided by drawing numbers, each of which represented a stage quadrant or a wing leading to the offstage areas. It's the choreographic equivalent to the use of aleatoric or chance compositional practices.
The evening will open with the local premiere of August Bournonville's “Napoli Divertissements,” a series of dances drawn from the Danish choreographer's 1842 ballet “Napoli.”
Ballet master Jacob Sparso will stage the production, one noted for its leaps, intricate footwork and a concluding tarantella.
The ballet is set to music by Paulli, Helsted and Gade.
“The divertissements are taken out of the context of the ballet ‘Napoli' so there is no hint of a story — just the joy of dancing,” Sparso said.
“It's very understated but extremely difficult to do because the phrasing has to be so precise. It's also been difficult to teach. I think of it almost like trying to learn Chinese.”
Since becoming artistic director of the Oklahoma City Ballet in the fall of 2008, Mills has used the company's February performances to showcase new ballets by some of the most innovative choreographers working today.
These winter dates have also featured some little-known ballets.
“Bournonville's ‘Napoli' is uplifting and will leave people energized,” Mills said.
“My ballet ‘Pushing Pennies' is almost quizzical in its mood and has no real storyline. It functions as a sort of palate cleanser. Like ‘Napoli,' ‘Paris Rouge' offers a European sensibility with a lot of energized folk dancing.
“These three ballets will give audiences a lot of variety, from something classical the city has never seen before (‘Napoli') to taking the classical ballet idiom as far as we can into contemporary movement (‘Pushing Pennies'). I have a feeling that the longer I am in this role and by bringing in works by so many different choreographers, the repertoire will become dense and the repertoire will continue to build.”