Keeper of the Plans

Ballet Wichita experiments with edgy, high-fashion show ‘made for grown-up audiences’

Ballet Wichita has never really been associated with edgy, avant-garde dance.

But with new leadership at the helm, the longtime Wichita dance company is looking to expand its repertoire to include just that.

“Very, very often ballet companies are associated with entertaining children, but the art form is a lot more serious than for kids,” said Alex Ossadnik, Ballet Wichita’s artistic director as of last year. “I mean, you’re not storybook illustrators.”

And its first standalone contemporary dance production is a high-fashion, glamorous show featuring some of its most experienced dancers.

The show — “Runway Pursuit” — is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Roxy’s Downtown, 412 E. Douglas. Tickets are $75, which includes a three-course dinner. They are available at www.roxysdowntown.com or by phone at 316-265-4400.

Here’s what you can expect:

“Runway Pursuit” consists of three ten-minute-long dance pieces by Ossadnik, all set to original music by Wichita percussionist Torin Andersen.

It’s as much a fashion show as it is a ballet.

Some of the Ballet Wichita dancers will wear elaborate gowns made by local shops Vanya Designs and Diva Jones — while sporting head-turning hairstyles by Eric Fisher and his students at the Eric Fisher Academy. They won’t necessarily dance, per se — Ossadnik is using them as models, mainly.

“They kind of look like aliens,” Ossadnik said. “It’s a weird look — a type of very designed look.”

Behind those models, upstage, Ballet Wichita’s dancers will move to portray “what the model might be thinking at this very moment,” he said.

“You have the whole glamorous aspect of the makeup and the hair, and behind them you have these dancers that are totally anonymous — you don’t see their faces,” Ossadnik said. “You don’t see a natural person on stage at all. You either have these anonymous creatures or you have these super made-up ones. You don’t have a single human being on stage.”

Andersen’s accompaniment is percussive, electronic and modern.

“We are in the now — we are not somewhere out in the 19th century looking for fairies,” Ossadnik said. “This is a piece actually made for grown-up audiences.”

It’s abstract and contemporary — which may seem new for Ballet Wichita, but is rather par-for-the-course among ballet companies across the country, Ossadnik said.

Before he came to Wichita last year, he worked as ballet master for Ballet Idaho and danced in Germany and France.

“Any ballet company out there is doing the story ballets at the same time as the abstract, mixed-repertory programs,” he said. “This is kind of my attempt at a mixed-repertory program.”

Fisher and his students are donating their makeup and hair work to the show for free.

After this, Ballet Wichita will return to its traditional Ballet in the Park series, with a production of “Cinderella” — then its traditional “The Nutcracker” for the holiday season.

Sandy Wolter, executive director of Ballet Wichita, said the company has been “ramping up” its programming since Ossadnik’s arrival.

“Our plans for next year are just to continue to add more productions,” she said.

“Runway Pursuit” is expected to last 90 minutes to 2 hours.

For more information, visit www.balletwichita.com.

Matt Riedl covers arts and entertainment news for the Wichita Eagle and has done so since 2015. He maintains the Keeper of the Plans blog on Facebook, dedicated to keeping Wichitans abreast of all things fun.
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