October 5 – 12, 2019 | The Keller Auditorium

222 SW Clay Street, Portland, OR 97201


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.

Performance Schedule

In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated

Choreography by William Forsythe | Music by Thom Willems

Stravinsky Violin Concerto

Choreography by George Balanchine | Music by Igor Stravinsky | Nelly Kovalev, violin soloist


Choreography by Dennis Spaight | Music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korakov


Performance Summary

In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated

The season opens with William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated – This is a work that changed ballet forever. Performed 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.

Stravinsky Violin Concerto

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 throughout 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 created by OBT’s associate director and resident choreographer Dennis Spaight 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.

Previews, Reviews and Commentary


When Kevin Irving asked me if I would consider mounting Dennis Spaight’s most ambitious, complex, and lushly produced ballet, I thought I was dreaming. But, it was indeed his hope to revive Scheherazade for OBT’s 30th Anniversary Season — how perfect. The collaboration that created Scheherazade in November 1990, was unique. Looking back nearly 30 years it seems almost miraculous.

Dennis Spaight, Henk Pander, and Ric Young — three of Portland’s top creative artists — joined forces on a project that they perceived as having different goals from Michel Fokine’s original 1912 hit, produced by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Like the original, this would be a glamorous spectacle, but with a twist. Instead of the orgy and massacre-in-the-harem story — which Dennis especially hated — they referenced the source, The Thousand and One (Arabian) Nights, in which the beautiful storyteller saves herself from death by telling a to-be-continued tale to the cruel Sultan night after night. Using some elements from the Fokine original — such as The Golden Slave — Spaight made Scheherazade, herself, the heroine of a story of true love. She is both telling the story and participating in it. The marvelous violin cadenzas in the score make this possible!

Thus, we have a story which can be interpreted on several levels. First, a simple love story with a good-versus-evil theme and second, the metaphorical one in which Scheherazade’s death and resurrection can be seen as representing the artist/choreographer’s struggle with his own mortality (Spaight passed away in 1993). Yet, another level provides insight to see the ballet simply as the choreographer’s love affair with a score. Dennis had wanted to set a ballet to Rimsky-Korsakov’s great score for many years. His gratitude to OBT and its generous donors was genuine and palpable.

Recreating this ballet has been a labor of love. Pander has supervised the renovation of his glorious original set designs. Peter West, the original lighting designer, is happily planning new effects. Jennifer Martin, who danced Scheherazade for Eugene Ballet has painstakingly taught the steps to OBT’s dancers, most of whom were not born when Scheherazade premiered. James Canfield, the original Golden Slave, is coaching the partnering. OBT’s costume shop is doing conservation work on the original costumes which former OBT Costume Shop Manager David Heuvel built from Ric Young’s designs in 1990. Dennis’s presence has been felt daily in the studio, never more than when something funny occurs, and we all say, “Dennis would love that!”

Carol Shults headshot

Carol Shults – Stager for Scheherazade

Carol Shults was a founding member of Oregon Ballet Theatre, working as company instructor and historian from 1989 to 1997. In 1989, she began OBT’s very successful and long-lasting pre-curtain talk series, Performance Perspectives. Since 1993, Shults and Sandra Baldwin, fellow répétiteur for The Dennis Spaight Trust, have staged Spaight works in Richmond, Fort Worth, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Memphis, and Eugene as well as for OBT whenever they have been performed through the years.

Runtime and Intermissions

Total run time is just over 2 Hours and 27 minutes with two 20 minute intermissions

Header Image: Peter Franc | Photo by Yi Yin