Keeper of the Plans

Review: Ballet Wichita takes a big step in the right direction

I wasn’t planning on reviewing Ballet Wichita’s “Runway Pursuit” when I walked in the building last Friday.

But after seeing such a thought-provoking presentation, I felt it merited some recognition in this space.

Usually we reserve reviews for shows that have runs of longer than one day (so that readers have a chance to see what we’re talking about), but Friday was about more than just a show.

It’s about where Ballet Wichita is going as an organization.

Since Wichita’s longest-running dance company plucked its new artistic director, Alex Ossadnik, from Ballet Idaho, he’s said he wants to freshen up and bolster Ballet Wichita’s offerings.

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with “The Nutcracker” or the various storybook narrative ballets the company puts on, but most ballet companies across the country offer a mix of classical and contemporary. And Ballet Wichita seems to be known for adhering to its time-honored traditions.

If Friday’s “Runway Pursuit” was any indication of the kinds of things Ossadnik has in store for Ballet Wichita, the company will be well-off for it.

It was a synthesis of Wichita creativity across art forms — hair and makeup design, fashion design, music, food and, of course, dance.

Essentially, “Runway Pursuit” was a dinner-theater event at Roxy’s Downtown featuring three 10-minute modern dance performances choreographed by Ossadnik. The dancers wore lavish custom-made dresses by a couple Wichita designers, outlandish hair extensions created by Eric Fisher and his salon, and the dance pieces were set to moody, atmospheric music by Wichita’s Torin Andersen.

Ostensibly it explored themes including the trappings of being a runway model — which may seem like a pretty narrow target audience in Wichita.

But I think the broader theme was how we all tend to present our best selves to those around us and on social media (hello, Instagram!), while internalizing and trying to minimize negative feelings. Don’t show any cracks in the armor (or makeup), right? And without that healthy balance of emotion, people become sort of artificial — they’re not even real anymore because their lives appear just so perfect on the surface.

Dressed in androgynous tan outfits, Ballet Wichita’s dancers were able to convey this abstract theme well — and that’s a testament both to the dancers themselves and to Ossadnik’s evocative, stark choreography.

It’s a modern-day lesson you just can’t quite get from a “Sleeping Beauty” or a “Snow White.”

That’s the kind of balance I feel Ballet Wichita needs — modern alongside the classical.

My hat’s off to Ballet Wichita and the creative teams that green-lighted this progressive show/collaboration. I’m excited to see what Ballet Wichita has in store for the future.

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.