Viral Videos
Josephine Lee exploring Oklahoma. Photo Courtesy Lee.

Earlier this summer, we followed master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop as she made her on a pointe shoe fitting tour around the West Coast and California. Now she's back, this time on a 45-day tour from California to Chicago, educating students on all things pointe shoes and helping them to find their perfect fit. Lee's making stops at top ballet companies and academies across the country, interviewing school directors and chatting with professional ballerinas to find out how they customize and break in their pointe shoes. Below, check out Lee's stop at Oklahoma City Ballet. She touches base with company soloist Amanda Popejoy and school director Penny Askew. Stay tuned for more!


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Audition Advice
Students taking class at the Miami City Ballet School. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

Growing up in Michigan, Jessy Dick was used to her daily hour-long drives to the Grand Rapids Ballet School, where she trained. But when she started to think about summer intensives, a new problem emerged: Auditions for the schools she was interested in were even farther away, in Chicago or Detroit. "I learned early on that if I wanted to do any summer programs, I'd have to travel at least three hours in order to audition," says Dick, now a member of The Washington Ballet's Studio Company.

Making plans for your summer training is complicated enough, especially with the sheer number of programs to choose between. But students who live far from popular audition hubs face the additional hurdle of organizing, scheduling and budgeting for audition trips. Luckily, with strategic planning, what can feel overwhelming at first can become a rewarding experience.

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Ballet Careers
Larsen in The Nutcracker. Photo by Jana Carson, Courtesy OKC Ballet.

In her first season as a corps member with Oklahoma City Ballet, Devin Larsen stood among the 17 dancers who made the audience gasp as the curtain came up on Balanchine's Serenade. But her path to getting there would make anyone gasp.

At age 3, Larsen was diagnosed with epilepsy. She averaged 20 complex partial seizures per day, which eventually turned into the more serious kind, generalized tonic seizures, where she would fall and completely lose consciousness. “Your brain just shuts down," she says.

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Viral Videos
Courtesy of NewsOK from a 1956 article in The Daily Oklahoman

Yvonne Chouteau, former ballerina with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and one of Oklahoma City Ballet's founding artistic directors, died on Sunday at 86 years old. Chouteau was one of the “Five Moons," five Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma who gained international acclaim in 20th century. (The others' names you might recognize: Marjorie and Maria Tallchief, Rosella Hightower and Moscelyne Larkin.) In this clip from the documentary Ballets Russes, we can see rare footage of Chouteau's luminous stage presence. She seems to bask in the spotlight's glow during the prayer variation in Coppélia, floating across the stage with perfect, tiny bourrées. In the next dance sequence, she swoops low and springs to relevé with such exuberance, you can't help but smile.

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Ballet Careers
Mills coaching Miki Kawamura and Alvin Tovstogray. Photo by Amy Haley, Courtesy OKCB.

Some might call it bravado. Others would say fightin' spirit. When Robert Mills grabbed the reins of a struggling Ballet Oklahoma in 2008, the company was at a crossroads: To sink under a $400,000 deficit or to merge with Tulsa Ballet.

“I wanted to show them what ballet could really do for this community," says Mills of how he approached the city's heavy hitters with a third option. His stump speech—“Why Oklahoma City Needs Its Own Ballet Company"—helped pull the organization back from the brink.

After off-loading some company property to settle the debt—a costume warehouse, as well as their studios, which were sold to an energy company that is ultimately donating space back to them—Mills started fresh. The troupe got a new name, Oklahoma City Ballet, and a new mission.

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