The show followed the life of famous composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. courtesy Tulsa Ballet

Tulsa Ballet’s “Tchaikovsky” a biographical ballet

The show payed homage to one of history’s most renowned composers, to great success.

The world premiere of Tulsa Ballet’s “Tchaikovsky” was a stunning blend of choreography, costuming and modern lighting effects. These elements combined to produce a beautiful, perfectly-paced ballet about the life of the famous Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Tchaikovsky is famous for composing the music to three of the most famous ballets of all time: “The Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake” and “Sleeping Beauty.” A world-class creative team consisting of Tulsa Ballet Artistic Director Marcello Angelini, Resident Choreographer Ma Cong, composer Oliver Peter Graber, Russian historian Daniela Kolic and New Zealand stage designer Tracy Grant Lord combined their talents to produce a ballet that spotlighted the life of the man who composed this famous music.

Most historians believe that Tchaikovsky was a gay man who lived a conflicted life because he had to hide his feelings amid the societal pressures of 19th-century Russia. Cong used this hidden life to drive the story forward. The ballet’s theme was forbidden love and how it affected Tchaikovsky’s music.

The ballet opened with Tchaikovsky dreaming about his mother and being a child. This theme of childhood innocence recurred throughout the performance. The next scene was a party at Leo Tolstoy’s house.

The costumes in this scene were stunning. The girls were in velvet and silk waistcoats and skirts with feathers in their caps. The costuming felt traditional with a delightful contemporary twist that made things feel a little more modern.

The costuming throughout was just fantastic. Everything looks 19th century but with velvet and sparkles that made it glamorous and fun.

At the party, there was a violinist troup. The choreography where the violinists displayed their great talents dancing with their violins and playing music was delightful to watch because they mimed playing the violin while leaping around the stage like a performance. Tchaikovsky here met the main violinist, Josef Kotek. From the dancing and acting, the two were shown having an instant connection because they could not keep their eyes off of each other despite the crowds around them.

The next scene showed them working on a violin score at the composer’s house. Through the duet, the dancers portrayed the complicated feelings of attraction mingled with fear, the beginning of their forbidden love.

Their fear of being found out was exemplified in the next scene at the opera. People began to gossip and whisper about their relationship. This gossip led Tchaikovsky to be connected with the next famous relationship in his life — his one with opera singer Madame Désirée Artôt.

Tchaikovsky was drawn to her, but he could not bring himself to have the intimacy she craved. She then moved on and married someone else in a haunting scene at the end of Act I where Tchaikovsky was shown longing for Kotek by taking the glove Kotek gave him out of his pocket and staring at it.

The opening scene of Act II was probably my favorite because of the acting done by the dancers, it had a really good energy to the scene that translated well to the audience. The young people were gathered in a garden and played games. The highlight of the scene was the tug-of-war game where the dancers managed to look graceful and clumsy at the same time.

At this party, a young student of Tchaikovsky, Antonia — the third major relationship in his life — was shown to be in love with him. He barely noticed her. In desperation, she wrote him a love letter offering herself in marriage.

Tchaikovsky consented to her proposal, and they married. But their marriage was one of strife and dissatisfaction as Tchaikovsky appeared to not love her because he often stared at the glove Kotek left for him. An inward scene of conflict followed as Tchaikovsky thought about the people he cared about and loved: Désirée, Kotek and Antonia.

Finally, in Tchaikovsky’s imagination, dancers in scary masks accompanied by anxious music with heavy drum beats dance across the stage to condemn the composer’s choices. Conflicted and tortured by his thoughts, he committed suicide, a tragic end to the brilliant composer’s life.

All of the group dance scenes in this ballet were well-composed. It was the perfect blend of group dance scenes, solos and duos. The dance numbers never seemed to drag but moved along at a fast pace and felt original and fresh.

My favorite thing about this ballet was how modern it felt. In classical ballets, the dance numbers tend to last a long time. “Tchaikovsky” never had that problem. The numbers were fast paced and well-acted. It felt like a ballet for the 21st century.

Although “Tchaikovsky” was only one weekend, Tulsa Ballet has two more shows before they close out their season. “TBII: Next Generation,” featuring Tulsa Ballet II, is the weekend of April 26–28. Their “Signature Series” on May 9–11 is their final performance of the season.

Promo art for the show. courtesy Tulsa Ballet

Post Author: Lizzy Young