‘Visionaries’ of dance: OKC Ballet closing season with triple bill

By Brandy McDonnell

Choreographer Cayetano Soto is looking for dance companies with vision.

That search brought him to Oklahoma City Ballet, where he is choreographing a new work titled “Adam” on the dancers.

“Everyone is very open and improvises so generously here. Sometimes when you go to work with a new company, you never know what to expect. I’m here for the first time, and all the doors, they were open,” Soto said.

The Barcelona, Spain-born and based choreographer will celebrate the world premiere of his new work Friday and Saturday as part of OKC Ballet’s 2018-19 season closer, “Visionaries: A Triple Bill.” The bill also will include the company premieres of famed ballets by American dance legends Robert Joffrey and George Balanchine.

“I wanted a new choreographer on an international scale to come to Oklahoma and create a new work for us. … I think his work in itself, his choreography in itself, is visionary,” OKC Ballet Artistic Director Robert Mills said of Soto.

Dance titans

Joffrey’s “Pas de Deesses” (or “Dance of the Goddesses”) will be presented with live piano accompaniment by the OKC Philharmonic’s Peggy Payne in honor of the 30th anniversary of the dance icon’s death.

“That’s where this ‘Visionaries’ program began because he was such a visionary in his ideas about this art form in this country. When you know the art form of ballet in this country, of course, you also think of George Balanchine, the founder of New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet,” Mills said. “Those two men are really essentially in our industry … like titans.”

The bill also will include “The Four Temperaments,” one of Balanchine’s earliest works in his signature neoclassical style. Set to a score Balanchine commissioned from Paul Hindemith, the ballet is inspired by the medieval belief that humans are made up of four different “humors” that determine each person’s temperament: melancholic (gloomy and pensive), sanguinic (stubborn and passionate), phlegmatic (unemotional and passive) and choleric (ill-tempered and angry).

“You don’t have to know the Greek mythology on these temperaments to appreciate it,” said Paul Boos, repetiteur with the George Balanchine Trust, who has been helping OKC Ballet learn the piece. “There’s one particular role, Sanguinic, which is technically extremely difficult. In fact, the woman who made it famous is from Oklahoma: Maria Tallchief.”

Universal themes

Being included in a triple bill with such iconic choreographers is an honor, said Soto, whose “Adam” is a sort of follow-up to his 2005 ballet “Shooting Star,” which he dedicated to his father after he died of cancer.

“I always felt that there is something more after one person’s departure. Where does the love go? How do you think about this person? When I talk about my ballet, it is something very personal. But in the end, it’s something universal, because we go through the same feelings, and especially that one. Everybody’s going to know what it means to lose somebody that you love so much,” Soto said.

“As artists we have a tremendous responsibility right now: We have to inspire the world. .. A civilization without art is nothing; it’s not even a civilization.”