Dance extravaganza “Strictly Gershwin” to thrill Tulsa

by Rob Howard
Associate Editor

"When I first came up with the idea to create this production of Strictly Gershwin, I intended to look at ways of introducing a new audience to the world of ballet," said Derek Deane, choreographer of the dance spectacular. "I wanted to create something that would be of great interest to dance fans who enjoy all different types of dance."

Tulsa Ballet will present the American premiere of Strictly Gershwin February 9-11 at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Chapman Music Hall.

Attendees have said it’s not your typical ballet; it’s a cross-over between a Broadway show and ballet. "The music and lyrics of the Gershwin brothers lend itself ideally to creating different styles and allowed me to incorporate ballet with Latin, tap and jazz. It's a great mixture of dance, and it is a feast on the eye for any dance lovers," Deane continued.

This production includes an orchestra with a Big Band sound, a corps de ballet, pas de deux and tap dancers, along with an array of styles of music and – unusual to ballet – singing.

Tulsa Ballet Artistic Director Marcello Angelini said, "Just imagine, 40 dancers, 14 tappers, four singers and 45 musicians all sharing the stage at the same time, dancing, singing and tapping on the music of George and Ira Gershwin. It is a show you will not want to miss!"

Deane said dance lovers, as well as fans of the Gershwin brothers’ music, will be amazed; it's hard to tell what audiences like the best. "There is such a ‘buzz,' and an amazing response throughout that's it's not easy to say what the audience will like the best! Rhapsody in Blue is extremely well-liked as are the tap numbers and the tango. An American in Paris is always received well."

It sounds complicated to combine multiple dance styles in one production, but Deane told The Gayly "Dance is dance! I obviously started with the ballet elements, and then I took a lot of advice from experts in tap, ballroom and jazz to help me combine all these elements choreographically. All the different styles came together quite easily and complement each other throughout the production. Variety is the spice of life."

Deane had praise for the professionalism of the Tulsa Ballet. Saying he didn't have to modify anything for the Tulsa performances, he asserted, "They have such a talented group of dancers, and the standard is so high that I was able to reproduce all of the choreography without change.

"Obviously I have brought in professional tap dancers to enhance the production, but all the other styles are dancing by the company dancers. It's great to work having a company with such enthusiasm and desire. Dancers who are hungry for new things. That's a tribute to the artistic direction of the company."

He said the program has been popular with audiences around the world. "I think my biggest achievement with Strictly Gershwin is the way I have managed to bring new audiences to dance and to create a production that sends people out of the theatre ‘on a high.' Being told by many people, ‘I could see it again and again' is thrilling. A great feeling!" Deane concluded.

In addition to choreography by Deane, music is by George Gershwin, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and Dubose Heyward.

Performances of Strictly Gershwin are February 9 and 10 at 8 p.m., February 11 at 3 p.m. Tickets are available online at, by calling (918) 749-6006, or in person at the Tulsa Ballet Box Office, 45th & Peoria.

The Gayly 1/25/2018 @ 10:15 a.m. CST