Oklahoma City Ballet

The Oklahoma City Ballet’s earliest beginnings were in 1963 as the Oklahoma City Civic Ballet. Located in the Science and Arts Foundation building on the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds, it was brought together by the foundation’s civic ballet committee and chief benefactors, Mr. and Mrs. John E. Kirkpatrick. The company began under the artistic direction of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo dancers Yvonne Chouteau and Miguel Terekhov.

The Oklahoma City Ballet Society was incorporated in 1967 to support the company. That same year the Ballet joined the newly formed Arts Council, Inc. and performed in the first ever Festival of the Arts celebrating Oklahoma’s 60th year of statehood.

In 1970 the Board of Trustees formed a new group, Oklahoma City Metropolitan Ballet Society and with the generous support of Vernon Pellow, Sr. the company began as the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Ballet with Yvonne Chouteau staying on as founding artistic director. International ballerina and Oklahoma native Maria Tallchief worked together with Ms. Chouteau to audition dancers for the company.

The company has had outstanding artistic direction throughout its development. Chouteau was succeeded by New York City Ballet principal dancers Conrad and Joy Ludlow, who directed the Company from 1973-1979. The Ludlow’s founded the company’s affiliate school and joined Allied Arts. During this time the Company and School used the Oklahoma City University studios and performed at the Kirkpatrick Theater on the OCU campus.

In 1979 American Ballet Theater dancers Bojan Spassoff and Stephanie Wolf-Spassoff assumed direction of the Company. This was the beginning of the change from a Civic Company to a Semi-Professional Company which was now performing three productions plus The Nutcracker in a season. In 1980 the Company name was changed to Ballet Oklahoma and in the spring of ’81 the Company moved into a newly renovated facility. The building was donated by Robert Hefner, III and a campaign to raise funds for renovations was chaired by Ann Simmons Alspaugh. Rand Elliott provided the architectural design and the renovations were completed by Bill McNatt Contruction. The company is still housed in this facility.

In 1983 New York City Ballet star Edward Villella joined the company as Artistic Director and directed the company for three seasons bringing the work or George Balanchine into the repertory. In 1986 Dallas Ballet dancers Bryan Pitts and Laura Flagg-Pitts joined the company as Artistic Director and Assistant to the Director respectively.

In 2008, for the first time, the company pulled from its own pool of talent by appointing former dancer Robert Mills the new Artistic Director and the name of the Company was changed to Oklahoma City Ballet. In 2009 the name of the affiliate school was changed to The Dance Center of Oklahoma City Ballet.

Oklahoma City Ballet’s repertory includes works by George Balanchine, Helen Pickett, Lee-Wei Chao, Amy Seiwert, Perrot, Coralli, Fokine, Petipa, Bournonville, and Sparso and Mills. 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.

The Dance Center of Oklahoma City Ballet continues to provide superb training for students interested in becoming professional ballet dancers as well as for others who want recreational ballet classes. Students trained in the school have been regularly accepted into summer sessions and advanced classes at The School of American Ballet, Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, The San Francisco Ballet and others. Former students have gone on to professional careers with the Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre among others, while some have gone on to “graduate” into the Oklahoma City Ballet as professional dancers in the company.

Oklahoma City Ballet is the resident dance company of the Civic Center Music Hall and tours as part of the Oklahoma Arts Council’s touring program. It also tours under the auspices of the Mid-America Arts Alliance, the National Endowment for the Arts Dance Touring Program and the Heartland Arts Fund.

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