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Oregon Ballet Theater 2019-20 season


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From the press release:


30th Anniversary Season


PORTLAND, OR — 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

Keller Auditorium



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
Keller Auditorium

Portland’s Favorite Holiday Tradition

George Balanchine’s

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

Keller Auditorium


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
Newmark Theatre 

“Vividly alive” – Fjord Magazine

Beautiful Decay

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

Newmark Theatre




“A divine playground” - danceviewtimes

Baker’s Dozen

Choreography by Twyla Tharp | Music by Willie “The Lion” Smith

The extraordinary journey continues…
World Premiere
Choreography by James Canfield

“Rodeo is pure joy.” - SFGate              


Choreography by Agnes de Mille | Music by Aaron Copland



June 13 and 14, 2020

Newmark Theatre

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.

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I'm glad to see Dennis Spaight's Scheherazade return, and on a program with In the Middle and Stravinsky Violin Concerto!

Tharp's Baker's Dozen has always seemed like a perfect fit for a ballet-trained ensemble -- I'm looking forward to seeing it again.  And it's been ages since we've had a chance at deMille's Rodeo on the west coast...

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