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Oklahoma City Ballet dances down the yellow brick road



Oklahoma City Ballet's final performance of the 2008-2009 season promises to take audiences on a journey into the enchanted land of Oz.  

The story of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion will come to life with exciting and lyrical choreography, rich music, beautiful sets and costumes, magical theatrical effects, and, of course, witches, flying monkeys and a little dog, too.  

For "The Wizard of Oz," the usual roster of artists and dancers will be joined onstage by children from Oklahoma City School of Ballet. 

The ballet draws its inspiration directly from "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," the first book of the series penned by L. Frank Baum, so the story, characters and situations are familiar. The look of the production, including the sets and costumes, is also reminiscent of other versions of the story, as most traditional adaptations "? including the classic 1939 film "? have based their designs directly on the book.  

Being a ballet, there are some differences, chief among them the lack of any dialogue or singing in the performance. Instead, the entire story will be told through movement and dance. Oklahoma City Ballet Executive Director Judith Hankins said audiences should have no problem following the story. Children in particular, she said, are very adept at understanding movement and action in ballet.    

"The Wizard of Oz" is choreographed by Jacob Sparso, a 13-year veteran of the company who recently retired from performing to focus solely on his job as ballet master for the organization. A native of Copenhagen, Denmark, Sparso has performed with and choreographed for companies across three continents.  

The production is set to an original score by Kermit Poling, the musical director for Lousiana's Shreveport Metropolitan Ballet and the South Arkansas Symphony. He has worked with orchestras throughout the nation and composed music for numerous ballet and theater productions such as "Snow White" and "The Glass Menagerie," and has worked with Grammy-winning guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd and blues singer Irma Thomas.

Poling first adapted "The Wizard of Oz" in 2006, taking inspiration directly from the classic book to create his full-length score, but has created brand-new music for this production and will conduct the Oklahoma City Philharmonic for the performances.

A meet-and-greet will be held following the Sunday performance, with Braum's providing milk and cookies.

"?Eric Webb


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