Since the 1960s, there has been a strong ballet presence with outstanding artistic direction in Oklahoma City. As with any organization, ours has evolved over time to better serve our community and our company of dancers.
Oklahoma City Ballet first opened in 1963 as the Oklahoma City Civic Ballet with the Company under the artistic direction of Yvonne Chouteau and Miguel Terekhov of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. In 1967, the Oklahoma City Ballet Society was incorporated to support the company.
In 1970, the Board of Trustees formed the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Ballet Society with Yvonne Choteau staying on as founding Artistic Director. International ballerina and Oklahoma native Maria Tallchief worked together with Ms. Chouteau to audition dancers for the company.
Chouteau was succeeded by New York City Ballet Principal Dancers Conrad and Joy Ludlow, who directed the Company from 1973 to 1979. During this time, the Ludlows founded the Company’s affiliate school.
In 1979, American Ballet Theater dancers Bojan Spassoff and Stephanie Wolf-Spassoff attained direction of the Company and began the change from a civic company to a semi-professional company with three productions in addition to The Nutcracker in a single season. The Company name changed to Ballet Oklahoma in 1981 and they moved into a newly renovated facility the following year.
In 1983, New York City Ballet star Edward Villella joined the Company as Artistic Director and brought the work of George Balanchine into the repertory during his three seasons. In 1986, Dallas Ballet dancers Bryan Pitts and Laura Flagg-Pitts joined the company as Artistic Director and Assistant to the Director, respectively. During the Pitts’ tenure, the company instituted its annual Artsreach program to bring students from across the state to the Civic Center for a live ballet performance. This program received the Governor’s Arts Award in 1997.
In 2008, the company pulled from within the organization for the first time by appointing former dancer Robert Mills the new Artistic Director and changed its name to Oklahoma City Ballet. The next year, the affiliate school name changed to The Dance Center of Oklahoma City Ballet. The school name changed to The Oklahoma City Ballet Yvonne Chouteau School in 2017 stemming from a generous gift from Kirkpatrick Philanthropies to honor our founder Madame Chouteau.
Oklahoma City Ballet’s repertory includes works by 20th century masters George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Agnes de Mille, and Gerald Arpino, plus works by some of today’s premiere contemporaries including Twyla Tharp, Jiří Kylián, Nacho Duato, Stanton Welch, Helen Pickett, Jessica Lang, and Mills. The company also regularly stages full-length classics like Giselle, Coppelia, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty. Oklahoma City Ballet has also presented special dance attractions as part of its role in serving the community. In the past, it has sponsored performances by Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev, The San Francisco Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Company, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.
Students trained in The School of Oklahoma City Ballet have been regularly accepted into summer sessions and advanced classes at The School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, The San Francisco Ballet, and others. Former students have gone on to professional careers with the American Ballet Theatre, Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, Parsons Dance and other companies, while others have continued to the Oklahoma City Ballet as professional dancers in the Company.