One of the highlights of the 2018 festival was the world premiere of a ballet based on Jenny Erpenbeck’s short story “Sand,” featuring choreography by Boyko Dossev, original music composed by Joshua Tomlinson, and violin soloist Erika Burns. The performance was made possible by a Norman Campus Research Council Faculty Investment Program grant from OU’s Vice President for Research, with additional support from the OU School of Dance, directed by Michael Bearden, and the OU School of Music, directed by Dr. Roland Barrett.
University of Oklahoma ballet students Kara Bannister, Mia Koshansky, Ruby Mather, Hannah Mayer, Breanna Mitchell, Mary Morgan, Lacey Moss, Lauren Peterson, Laura Pratt, Caroline Preskitt, Chiara Ruff, Alexandra Smith, Demeri Sutula, Emily Turpin, and Caroline Young received a standing ovation for their performance. Several hundred students, teachers, and librarians from the Norman Public Schools along with Ms. Erpenbeck herself, other out-of-town guests, as well as OU students, faculty, and staff attended the March 9 premiere in the Elsie C. Brackett Theatre. Stills from the performance, along with other festival photos, can be found on WLT’s Flickr page.
Jeremy Lindberg, associate professor of dance and assistant director of the Oklahoma Festival Ballet at OU, served as artistic adviser. Other credits included costume design by Lloyd Cracknell, sound engineer Trevor Birt, lighting designer Joshua Robbins, and production manager/hall performance supervisor Alan Hiserödt.
“Sand” appears in The Old Child and Other Stories (New Directions, 2005), translated by Susan Bernofsky, who was also in attendance. The grandmother figure in the story is an “artistic speaker” who performs in town but seems enigmatic to her own granddaughter. Over the course of the narrative, the granddaughter realizes that, far from succumbing to despair in old age, her grandmother is full of “young laughter that has found its way back to an old body.” As the narrator spends more and more time caring for her grandmother, even till the day of her death, she realizes how much her own sense of self (i.e., as an emergent writer/artist) is indebted to her: “I followed my grandmother into her sense of order, but she herself has fled, I now realize, and she didn’t have to wrap up anything to flee, she simply became something else, like a mummy that crumbles into dust when it is discovered and blows away.”