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Oklahoma on Pointe G


By Hayley Leatherwood


race and poise pour out of Julianne Ramsey as gentle as the wind sweeping down the plain. Her dreams have car- ried her to New York City, where the young Oklahoman is currently keeping Sinatra’s “vagabond shoes” on pointe.


Above: An original score by Osage tribe member Lou Brock called “The Journey” inspired Tinker-Smith. Dr. Joseph Rivers, Department Chair of Film Studies at the University of Tulsa, assisted Brock with the composition and orchestrated the entire ballet. Courtesy Photo


“There’s a certain truth to the phrase ‘bloom where you are planted,’ but at the same time, when pursuing an aspiration there’s no limit where you may go,” Ramsey said. The 16-year-old left her home state in August to pursue her desire to become a pro- fessional ballerina; a dream which, when achieved, will put her in good company. Yvonne Chouteau, one of the famous fi ve Native American ballerinas, was a neighbor to the Ramsey family. One morning, Choteau stopped Ramsey’s mother and, peeking into the baby carriage, claimed Julianne, who does not share her Native American descent, had “ballerina feet.”


Sometimes those feet can do a great deal of the talking.


Julianne Ramsey aspires to become a professional ballerina through her current study at Balllet Academy East in New York City. Courtesy Photo


12 WWW.OK-LIVING.COOP WWW.OK-LIVING.COOP


“The Indian people are very artistic as a whole,” Chouteau was once reported saying in a New York News Service interview. “We are also very non-verbal, and so I think dance is a perfect expression of the Indian soul.” Dance is a communication and connection that is especially important to the Osage tribe. “Wahzhazhe” is the Osage’s story told through ballet, but according to ballet director Randy Tinker-Smith, the tale is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Traditional drums, cos- tumes and dance transform the past to the present, bringing to life the Osage tribe’s rich history. “The Osage danced before a raid, they danced before a hunt, they danced to the beat of the drum, they danced to the prayer songs, and sometimes they just danced. What better way to tell the Osage story than through a bal- let that expresses the rich culture of a warrior people who controlled a large part of what is now called the United States of America,” Kathryn Red Corn, project sponsor, said. The ballet depicts Osage ancestors through- out history from pre-Columbian times to European contact to the struggles and heart- ache brought on by land allotment. The pro- duction fi nishes with a scene from modern day, depicting how the Osage people must tie the past and present together in daily life. Considered a teaching project, Tinker-Smith incorporated interns from the Osage tribe in


their specific areas of study including cos- tumes, backdrop designs, fi lm, social media, photography and restaurant management. “There’s no ego, no stars, just a commitment to honoring our nation,” Tinker-Smith said. That feeling of working toward a communal goal permeated all the rehearsals. Jenna Smith, Tinker-Smith’s daughter, choreographed and taught the show in four weeks.


Thirty dancers from across the nation, 18 children and 12 professionals, participated in the fi rst production in August of 2012. Tinker-Smith’s goal was to inspire one child to be a part of the arts and explore their talents; that goal became her greatest joy. “On the very fi rst night a 14-year-old girl was so inspired and moved by what she saw, she wrote a poem,” Tinker-Smith said. “I thought, ‘I have arrived! I have reached my goal.’” Tinker-Smith also encountered something unexpected through the production—the ballet brought an immersion to healing. “Not only was the performance special to Osages, but people from other tribes were also healed in watching this story,” Tinker-Smith said.


Tinker-Smith said the audience size expand- ed from 100 to 600 people, and the team was fl ooded with calls asking when the production would happen again. That’s when she had a huge shift in thinking: how to take this story on the road.


“We would really like to do an 11-week fall 2013 tour and a 12-week spring 2014 tour,” Tinker-Smith said. “A booking agent told me that was impossible, but this is something people will want to see.”


Tinker-Smith hopes to raise enough funds to perform at the National Museum of the American Indian in March. However, the story will be told again at the Constantine Theatre in Pawhuska, Okla., in June.


“We must continue to perform the ballet at home, because it really is our story,” Tinker- Smith said.


To donate to the project, contact the Arts


and Humanities Council of Tulsa. To learn more about the ballet and all the ways to get involved, visit https://osageballet.com/.


If viewing our digital edition, click here to view video of the Osage Ballet. Access our digital edition at www.ok-living.coop or fi nd our FREE app at the Apple Newsstand.


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