Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Ballet Oklahoma to Tour Six-State Area

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Ballet Oklahoma to Tour Six-State Area

Article excerpt

By Max Nichols Columnist for The Journal Record Bryan Pitts had been a soloist in New York City and ballet master in Los Angeles and Dallas before 1986, when he came to Oklahoma City to help revive the struggling Ballet Oklahoma.

Despite the problems of Ballet Oklahoma at that time, Pitts considered it an opportunity, because it was his first chance to become an artistic director. He was a gifted choreographer with a flair for programming ballets with a wide appeal, and there was much to be done in Oklahoma City.

"I knew the Dallas Ballet was going to fold, and it did," he said.

"They had the same problems we had in Oklahoma City, and I liked the commitment here. We had virtually no ballets except `The Nutcracker' when I came here, so I had the opportunity to develop my own." Now, Ballet Oklahoma is celebrating its 20th anniversary with its sixth straight season in the black. The company has three full-length ballets among more than 25 works developed by Pitts, and it has been accepted for the Mid-America Arts Alliance Touring Program.

This means Ballet Oklahoma will be able to tour in a six-state area of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma. Since 1987-88, the company has performed in Stillwater, Chickasha, Guymon, Edmond, Bartlesville, Lawton, Ardmore, Idabel, Durant and Enid on the Arts Council of Oklahoma program.

"The contribution of Bryan Pitts to our success is almost beyond measure," said General Manager Gail Beals. "He serves as his own choreographer, and that has given Ballet Oklahoma the capability of producing full-length ballets that will be assets for years." A key element is that ballets are not written.

"Traditionally, they have been handed down," said Pitts, "though we now use some video. Each company works out its own choreography for a ballet, and we had to start almost from scratch." Pitts, who is assisted by his wife, Laura Flagg-Pitts, had to build a team of dancers. Ballet Oklahoma had only 14 when they arrived, and the dancers were surviving partly on donated benefits such as free apartments.

The company now has 21 professional dancers, and they are attracted by Pitts. …

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