Oregon Ballet Theatre ROAR(S) into its 30th Anniversary Season featuring a powerhouse line-up which opens on October 5, 2019.
Artistic Director Irving spoke about his inspiration in planning the season during OBT’s 2019/2020 season unveiling event: “As we brought the season together, we sought out work that explores the full spectrum of artistry in ballet — ballet that ROAR(S) with power and exceptionalism. The upcoming season truly represents and celebrates the core of what makes OBT so remarkable, — incredible choreography, dancers with a dedication to excellence, and the common calling to push beyond past high points.”
The 2019/2020 season, which will feature five productions at Portland’s Keller Auditorium and Newmark Theatre, celebrates the incredible thirty-year history of OBT by bringing together diverse, iconic ballets that embody OBT’s past and excites its future. The season features work by extraordinary choreographers George Balanchine, James Canfield, Agnes de Mille, Nicolo Fonte, William Forsythe, Dennis Spaight, Christopher Stowell, and Twyla Tharp. It includes full-length ballets and repertory that has not been seen on OBT’s stage in twenty-nine years. There will be new works that pay homage to where the company has been, but also exemplify the fundamental principles animating OBT’s future. The robust season includes classical, neo-classical, and contemporary ballets, in an all-encompassing season that ROAR(S).
OBT has named the opening production ROAR(S), reflecting three distinct eras of its repertory, but also a manifesto in dance. Each of these ballets is a masterwork in its own right, yet together they represent the heart and soul of OBT’s past and future.
The season opens with William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated – a work that changed ballet forever. Performing to a jolting crash of electronic sound, the work continues as a thrilling high-voltage shock to the world of ballet, spreading from stage to stage. OBT audiences raved about its memorable 2016 company premiere.
Commissioned by Rudolf Nureyev in 1987 for the Paris Opera Ballet and immediately recognized as a masterpiece of contemporary work, this inventive piece has become Forsythe’s most famous ballet.
The second work on the program features the captivating Stravinsky Violin Concerto. Choreographer George Balanchine and Composer Igor Stravinsky both born in Russia — and both took New York and the ballet world by storm — have been described as the “Eternal Partnership.” No ballet better exemplifies their virtuosity than this abstract ballet. Performed twice before over the course of OBT’s history, Stravinsky Violin Concerto will be presented for the first-time with live music, under the baton of Maestro Niel DePonte, showcasing the full genius of both Balanchine and Stravinsky.
OBT is pleased to announce the revival of Dennis Spaight’s Scheherazade. Steeped in OBT history, and last presented in 1993, this storied ballet was created by OBT’s associate director and resident choreographer in 1991. It was the first ballet choreographed for the combined companies of Pacific Ballet Theatre and Ballet Oregon and featured renowned dancers Patricia Miller and James Canfield. “With sets by Henk Pander, costumes by Ric Young and lighting design by Peter West, it was a collaboration made in heaven.” – Oregon ArtsWatch
A technicolor tour de force, this one-act ballet is based on One Thousand and One (Arabian) Nights of which Scheherazade, the legendary Persian queen, is the storyteller. A formidable woman stuck in a less than loving marriage has a husband, the Sultan, who has a ghastly habit of marrying a woman at night and killing her in the morning. Keeping her wits intact, she avoids certain death by telling him a story every night, which she never intends to finish. Scheherazade’s inspired diversions are legendary.
“Scheherazade is a seminal work for OBT; that we have the opportunity to honor someone who was so integral to the history of the company, in this season, on the stage it was designed for, is extraordinarily exciting and rewarding,” said Irving “We are all very pleased to be able to celebrate our 30th anniversary with Scheherazade in the season.”
October 5 – 12, 2019
Featuring the OBT Orchestra
“Brilliant, innovative” – The New York Times
In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated
Choreography by William Forsythe | Music by Thom Willems
“Exuberant” – The New York Times
Stravinsky Violin Concerto
Choreography by George Balanchine | Music by Igor Stravinsky
Nelly Kovalev, violin soloist
“Highly theatrical” – Oregon ArtsWatch
Choreography by Dennis Spaight | Music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
OBT’s season would not be complete without Portland’s favorite holiday tradition, the 17th annual production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®. This production gets better and better with each passing year; join Marie, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince on their adventure through the Land of Sweets. Immerse yourself in this magical journey, for children of all ages.
“The dancers of OBT, more than ever, exhibit the qualities that I prize. They perform with freedom through solid technique, musicality, individuality, and the ability to really be ‘in the moment.’” – Kevin Irving, Artistic Director
December 7 – 26, 2019
Portland’s Favorite Holiday Tradition
The Nutcracker ®
Choreography by George Balanchine | Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Featuring twelve performance with the OBT Orchestra
Performances marked with ♪ feature the OBT Orchestra
Saturday, December 7 at 2PM ♪ & 7:30PM ♪
Sunday, December 8 at 2PM ♪
Friday, December 13 at 7:30PM
Saturday, December 14 at 2PM ♪ & 7:30PM ♪
Sunday, December 15 at 2PM ♪
Thursday, December 19 at 7:30PM
Friday, December 20 at 2PM & 7:30PM ♪
Saturday, December 21 at 2PM ♪ & 7:30PM ♪
Sunday, December 22 at 2PM ♪ & 7:30PM
Monday, December 23 at 2PM ♪ & 7:30PM
Tuesday, December 24 at 12:00PM
Thursday, December 26 at 2PM ♪
The powerful lineup continues with the dreamy and unforgettable, The Sleeping Beauty choreographed by OBT’s former artistic director Christopher Stowell, after Marius Petipa’s original 1890 choreography, which debuted at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. Last seen in Portland in 2010, this enchanting, full-length work is one of the world’s most popular storied ballets. — Set to Tchaikovsky’s opulent score, it features a cast of fantastical characters, spectacular sets, legendary music, and the grandest of dancing. This joyous ballet is where happily-ever-after can always be found.
“The most beloved of the 19th-century ballets. No other dance classic has a score so endlessly fragrant and varied. No other work has so rich an idea of what ballet theater can be.” – The New York Times
February 15 – 23, 2020
The Sleeping Beauty
Choreography by Christopher Stowell (after Marius Petipa)| Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Featuring the OBT Orchestra
OBT’s Resident Choreographer Nicolo Fonte debuted the vivacious Beautiful Decay in 2015 to extraordinary acclaim. Fonte described his inspiration for the work, “When thinking about a series of photographs of very much dead but still very vibrant flowers — these flowers were so full of movement, and retained such a potent identity and some sense of ‘self,’ that the beauty evident in the decay was to me both noble and touching.” Since its OBT debut, Beautiful Decay has been performed around the country and now, as part of OBT’s 30th anniversary season, returns with national recognition.
“Beautiful Decay is not only an evening of explosive, athletic dance that leaves the audience speechless after just the first act but also a witty and sophisticated meditation on the passing of time.” – The Dance Journal
April 9 – 12, 2020
“Vividly alive” – Fjord Magazine
Choreography by Nicolo Fonte | Music by Antonio Vivaldi, Max Richter, Ólafur Arnalds
Guest Artists Diana Byer and Gregg Bielemeier
Thoroughly American and returning for its second season, The Americans 2.0 is OBT’s annual series that explores the unique voices and rich history of American choreographers. From a playful work by Twyla Tharp; to a world premiere by James Canfield; and the quintessential American ballet by Agnes de Mille, with its spirited score by Aaron Copland, these three ballets capture the spirit of American dance in form, style, and music.
In this company premiere, Baker’s Dozen is the first full work by Twyla Tharp to enter the OBT repertory. The movement expresses harmony, playfulness and easy virtuosity. An American original, Twyla Tharp has changed the face of dance with disarming boldness. She is, as the San Francisco Chronicle noted, “deadly serious as an artist and distinctive as a dancemaker. Tharp has created a monumental legacy. Virtually all dance techniques are mutually compatible in Tharp’s universe, where the classical and the unclassifiable tend to smile side by side.”
OBT is thrilled to announce that James Canfield, OBT’s founding artistic director, will return to choreograph a new work for its World Premiere performance. James Canfield choreographed more than thirty ballets as the founding Artistic Director of OBT and established the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre in order to provide the best classical training to dancers throughout the Northwest. Canfield put OBT on the map thirty years ago and he returns to celebrate Oregon Ballet Theatre’s anniversary season by again adding to the repertory with a new work.
Composed by Aaron Copland, Rodeo is Agnes de Mille’s most beloved and most frequently presented ballet; it is the ballet that launched her career. De Mille danced the leading role and received twenty-two curtain calls with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo at the Metropolitan Opera House on October 16, 1942. The ballet was the beginning of her success as a choreographer of worldwide reputation and was the first ballet to feature American tap dancing and indigenous folk dance, along with classical ballet.
The ballet displays bravura dancing in a unique style derived from horseback riding and cattle roping. The work is robust, tender, and full of optimism. Rodeo is a celebration of the pluck and spirit of the American character.
June 5 – 13, 2020
THE AMERICANS 2.0
“A divine playground” – danceviewtimes
Choreography by Twyla Tharp | Music by Willie “The Lion” Smith
The extraordinary journey continues…
Choreography by James Canfield
“Rodeo is pure joy.” – SFGate
Choreography by Agnes de Mille | Music by Aaron Copland
June 13 and 14, 2020
Annual School Performance
Connect with the next generation of dancers; Oregon Ballet Theatre School’s Annual Performance showcases the energy, artistry, and technique of the students in a performance that Critical Dance has called a “Home Run Hit.” This performance is especially popular with families and classical dance lovers.
OBT is pleased to announce a new four-production season ticket package with savings of 35% off regularly priced tickets – a larger saving from previous seasons. Season ticket buyers are some of our most loyal supporters; in repositioning our season ticket/subscription packages, OBT hopes to acknowledge extraordinary patronage and to provide the best possible experience in all areas. OBT’s season tickets/subscriptions are available now and begin as low as $116 for the four-production package. Current season ticket holders will receive their renewal packages by March 12 and have until April 30 to renew their season tickets and guarantee the same seats. New season ticket orders are also available. For more information or to order your renewal or new season tickets call 503.222.5538, Monday through Friday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. https://www.obt.org/season-ticket-package/
Oregon Ballet Theatre will again be holding its Nutcracker Summer Sale from July 1 – 31, 2019. During this annually anticipated summer happening, tickets for George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® can be purchased for up to 30% off the full ticket price. This sale will get patrons the very best seats at the best prices for the season. Additional information about this sale will be available at https://www.obt.org/
Individual performance tickets for the entire 2019/2020 season will be available beginning August 1, 2019
ABOUT THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
A rare dancer whose career spanned multiple disciplines, Kevin Irving began dancing with jazz classes in his hometown dance school (Long Island, New York), before joining the school and training ensemble of Alvin Ailey – an experience that impacted him deeply. From 1982-1985, he danced with The Elisa Monte Dance Company of New York, a company often referred to as “post-modern.” At 24, however, he took a sharp turn toward classical dance, joining Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in Montréal.
Promoted first to soloist and then principal dancer, Irving became a well-known figure wherever LGBC performed, excelling in classical, neoclassical, and contemporary roles – including roles and ballets created by LGBC’s resident choreographer, James Kudelka. In 1993, Irving joined Twyla Tharp Dance, touring the U.S. and Europe with the acclaimed choreographer, including performances at L’Opéra de Paris, and the PBS filming of Tharp’s much-lauded ballet In the Upper Room.
From 1994-2002, Irving was ballet master and associate director with Nacho Duato’s Compañía Nacional de Danza in Madrid. From 2002-2007, he served as artistic director of The Göteborg Ballet in Sweden. The company, during Irving’s tenure, was named the most important dance company in Sweden in Ballet International’s critic poll. From 2007-2013, Irving was a frequent guest ballet master with The Royal Danish Ballet, where he staged and rehearsed works by Jiří Kylián, George Balanchine, and Jerome Robbins. He has also been a guest teacher with numerous companies and schools in the U.S. and abroad for over 20 years. Additionally, he staged ballets by Nacho Duato and Nicolo Fonte for companies such as The Royal Ballet Covent Garden, Nederlands Dans Theater, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Lyon Opera Ballet, and The Australian Ballet, to name just a few.
In the U.S., Irving became associate director at Morphoses (formerly The Wheeldon Company) from 2011-2012, coordinating special initiatives aimed at defining the company’s unique profile in the dance world. In 2010, he founded I-DANCE (Inspiring Dance: American Nations’ Choreographic Exchange), a nonprofit that sends teachers and choreographers to dance communities in Central and South America. Irving was named artistic director of Oregon Ballet Theatre in July 2013.
ABOUT OREGON BALLET THEATRE
OBT is committed to sharing its passion for the expressive power of ballet, inspiring an enduring appreciation of dance, and connecting in meaningful ways to our community through excellence in performance, training, and education. OBT is the largest professional ballet company in Oregon; we employ nearly 200 people and attract artists from around the globe through our reputation for excellence. The company is rooted in classical ballet traditions, with a repertoire ranging from the classics to premieres from today’s most exciting choreographic voices. Our mission is dedicated to the vitality of – and access to – world-class ballet performance and training in the Pacific Northwest.
Founded in 1989 by James Canfield, a former principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, OBT developed a distinct style and unique repertoire that comprised over 80 ballets. The late Dennis Spaight, OBT’s former associate director and resident choreographer, who left a vivid legacy of dance, and was a leader with the company until his death in 1993. From 2003-2012, under the direction of Christopher Stowell, OBT presented nearly 350 performances and added 51 ballets – including 20 world premieres – to its diverse body of work. In June 2013, the OBT Board named Kevin Irving as the company’s third Artistic Director.
Irving brings over 25 years of experience performing with and managing world-renowned cultural organizations and dance companies, including The Göteborg Ballet, The Royal Danish Ballet, and Compañía Nacional de Danza. Irving’s tenure is marked by a commitment to collaborative partnerships with Portland artists and organizations, including the Portland Art Museum, Multnomah County Library, Kenji Bunch, and Pink Martini. He is expanding the company’s classical repertoire with premieres of Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella and his own updated Swan Lake, while preserving OBT’s legacy by restoring major works such as James Canfield’s Romeo & Juliet. Irving is diversifying our repertoire with world premieres from internationally-acclaimed and contemporary choreographers: Nacho Duato, William Forsythe, Nicolo Fonte, Darrell Grand Moultrie, and Helen Pickett.
We are proud to train the next generation of dance artists through the OBT School. Under the direction of Marion Tonner, our school provides over 800 youth and adult students of all ages with a high-quality dance education from professional instructors. Alumni have gone on to train at some of the most prestigious institutions in the country, and have gone on to dance professionally with a number of international companies and almost every major company in the U.S. We offer enhanced professional development opportunities at the upper levels of the school through our junior company, OBT2.
OBT2 provides rigorous training and performance experience to facilitate the transition from student to professional dancer in a small, nurturing environment. This smaller, more mobile performing ensemble develops and performs its own repertoire, expanding dancer training while improving access to ballet for an estimated 5,000 people each year, throughout the Portland Metro area and beyond. Directed by Lisa Sundstrom (former dancer with American Ballet Theatre and Pennsylvania Ballet), OBT2 is equipped to bring performances into a variety of settings, including schools, studios, retirement centers, corporate events, and community venues.
OBT’s investment in the community extends far beyond our stages and studios, through a wealth of free and low-cost programs that unlock the world of ballet for learners of all ages and backgrounds. Our comprehensive OBT Outreach reaches approximately 35,000 people annually, including over 11,000 K-12 students across 22 school districts, and includes: “Performance Perspectives” pre-show presentations; our popular “Student Performance Series;” special access to our dancers through “PhotoArt Encounter”; and front-row seating and audio narration at Nutcracker dress rehearsals for hundreds of low vision and hearing-impaired children and their families. Our in-school residencies are designed to integrate seamlessly with academic curriculum, and the majority of our youth programs serve schools with over 50% Free and Reduced Rate Lunch (FRRL) participation.
Oregon Ballet Theatre is supported, in part, with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Oregon Arts Commission (OAC), and Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC).