New York regularly plays host to ballet companies from smaller cities. It’s an oft brutal undertaking for the visitors. The old lyric/trope—“if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere”—holds some truth, although many a company manages just fine by avoiding New York City. Tulsa Ballet finally took the plunge after a 25 year hiatus, and the one lingering question is, what took them so long?
The company performed at the Joyce, flattering venue to many visiting companies, although the rep performed could use a larger stage. Nonetheless, the three works shown showed off the group’s assets. Kenneth MacMillan’s Elite Syncopations (1974) felt more like a party than a dance, in no small part due to Ian Spurling’s fantastic mock evening wear, mainly unitards of brilliant colors and patterns. Pairs and groups of varying number took centerstage as the others ringed the periphery. Karina Gonzalez, in a sleek white costume, dazzled with her fine technique and cool, yet riveting stage presence.
Next up was Nacho Duato’s Por Vos Muero (1996), performed by Compañia Nacional de Danza (where Duato is artistic director) a couple of years ago at BAM. The scale of the work fit better on BAM’s larger stage, with more distance from the audience. Nonetheless, this work has something for everybody. It’s set to early Spanish music interspersed with poetry by Garcilaso de la Vega; the dancers begin and end in beige leotards, donning courtly gem-colored dresses and tunics in between. Duato’s muscular choreography suited the company’s talents well—classical, yet modern.
The final entry, This Is Your Life by Young Soon Hue (made for Tulsa Ballet last year), was billed along the lines of “reality tv hits the stage.” An emcee/contestant intro section highlighted just how international Tulsa Ballet is—a number of the dancers spoke in their native tongues (including Chinese and Spanish). But the format was merely a good hook to showcase each featured performer’s personality and plotline, even if the women were saddled with unflattering wigs.
Like Miami City Ballet, which last season made a brilliant splash in NYC after a decade’s hiatus, Tulsa Ballet—very international in makeup—took a long time to re-visit New York. But perhaps it was really just the right amount of time. And hopefully both companies will return in the near future.
Image: Karina Gonzalez and Alfonso Martín in Elite Syncopations. Photo: Christopher Jean-Richard