EDMOND—The Oklahoma City Ballet started off the 2017–2018 concert series at Armstrong Auditorium on the evening of September 14, performing two stories for 693 audience members: Firebird and Rodeo.
Patrons settled into their seats as the lights dimmed and the curtain rose. Slowly, the lights upon the stage brought the set into view and the characters appeared for the first act, Stravinsky’s Firebird.
The story of the modernist ballet follows a prince who stumbles upon an enchanted garden where he captures the elusive creature known as the firebird, played by principle dancer Dayoung Jung. Jung showed her skill on pointe with her balance creating the illusion of flight. Her fluid arm motions communicated tension as she tried to break away from the prince, who was portrayed by principle dancer Alvin Tovstogray. Desperate to escape captivity, the firebird gives the prince one of her feathers, a token that promises she will come to his aid should he ever call upon her. He accepts, and she flies away.
The garden is controlled by a wicked monster who has trapped a group of maidens within the limits of his property. The prince falls in love with one of these maidens, played by soloist Autumn Klein. The maidens performed in soft ballet slippers, giving their characters an innocent air as they danced around the tree that made up the focal point of the background for the dancers to work with. When the monster tries to turn the prince to stone, he calls upon the firebird. The firebird causes the monster’s evil minions to dance until they pass out and tells the prince how to kill the monster. In the finale, the prince marries the maiden and they dance to an epic piece of music that crescendoed into robust applause by the hundreds of concert goers.
During the 20-minute intermission, patrons chatted over refreshments of pie and coffee.
The second act was a performance of Aaron Copland’s Rodeo—The Courting of Burnt Ranch.
The plot follows a young woman who tries desperately to get noticed despite her tomboyish nature. The comedic story had the audience laughing at several points, and, as with Firebird, the dancers’ strongest qualities were displayed in their stage presence, characterizations and personalities.
The Cowgirl, portrayed by soloist Amanda Herd-Popejoy, “rode” across the stage in a chaotic manner, flailing and falling over herself as she tried to gain attention and win favor. She eventually won the attention of the Champion Roper, played by soloist Walker Martin, whose energy added to the humor.
Rodeo’s unique mix of ballet and tap with a distinct flavor of the American Southwest appealed to the Oklahoma crowd. One teenage girl watching with her sisters and her grandmother said the event was “a lot of fun”; her grandmother remarked that it was an “entertaining show for all of us.” Both said they were pleased that the Oklahoma City Ballet was performing in Armstrong Auditorium for the first time.
Prior to the performance, the kitchen crew provided a meal for the dancers. One performer commented, “You can tell this meal was made with love.” Another said that it was the best food he had eaten at a performance since he had joined the company. After the performers finished their early dinner, they rehearsed on stage and warmed up their muscles by doing dance combinations to popular film soundtracks as concert goers began to fill the hall.
The day following the performance, one of those concert goers called the box office to express that they had enjoyed the performance and found it to be one of the best ballets they have ever seen.
The event marked the 11th ballet to appear at Armstrong Auditorium since the venue opened in 2010. The previous 10 ballets have been presented by the Russian National Ballet Theatre and the Moscow Festival Ballet, which returns to Armstrong on January 29–30. The next concert at Armstrong features pianists Christopher O’Riley and Pablo Ziegler.