Osage Ballet to hold July performances in Skiatook and Miami


(L-R) Sean Steigerwald, Arthur Rocha, Sasha Kotelenets and Chad Jones. Photo by: Bill Riley

By: Roseanne McKee

“Wahzhazhe” an Osage Ballet will again grace the Oklahoma stage. The Osage Ballet will hold six July performances of “Wahzhazhe, an Osage Ballet,” at two Oklahoma venues — Miami and Skiatook.

Three performances will be held at the Skiatook High School: July 18, 19, at 7:30 p.m. and July, 20, at 2:30 p.m. at 1000 W. 4th St., Skiatook, Okla.

In addition, there will be three performances at the historic Coleman Theater in Miami, July 25, 26, at 7:30 p.m. and July 27, at 2:30 p.m. at 103 N. Main St., Miami, Okla.

The director, Randy Tinker Smith, made the decision to hold these summer performances following the warm reception by audiences in 2013 at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Bartlesville Community Center and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

Smith said that the ballet “Wahzhazhe” tells the story of the Osage people from their first encounters with European visitors to the present day. Called the “Masters of the Battlefield” and sometimes referred to as the happiest people in the world, the Osage people monopolized trade because of their organization and order. Highlights of “Wahzhazhe” include: the Osage’s journey to Oklahoma territory, their wealth through the discovery of oil in the minerals estate, and the manner in which they now walk in two worlds.

The Osage Ballet operates under the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, 101 E. Archer St., Tulsa, OK 74013, as a non-profit organization.

“We appreciate donations from the Osage Nation Foundation, Iron Hawk Energy Group and other area oil businesses,” Smith said. “These donations help us continue to bring the story of the Osage people to the Oklahoma stage.”

Tickets are available at to door for $10 for children and seniors and $12 for adults.

For more information, or to make a donation, contact the Osage Ballet at 918-704-4668 or via e-mail at osageballet@gmail.com.

Donations to the Osage Ballet may be mailed to: the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa at 101 E. Archer St., Tulsa, OK 74103.

Visit the Osage Ballet Facebook and the website at: http://www.osageballet.com for photos and updates.

Osage Ballet holds Art Auction and Fashion Show

(L-R) Madeline Pennington, Emily Pennington and Jenna Smith model designs by Wendy Ponca and Terry Wann inspired by Native American clothing.Image

By: Roseanne McKee

The Osage Ballet held an art auction and fashion show on April 25 at the Harwelden Mansion in Tulsa.

Native-American fashions by designers Wendy Ponca and Terry Wann were inspired by the Osage creation story, which tells of sky people, called Tzi-Zho, coming to earth from the sky and marrying the earth people called Hun-kah.

“Two of the models represented the sky people and one the earth people,” Ponca explained. “The earth model is clothed in buckskin, otter skin, copper and shells just as those found at the Cahokia Mounds.”

The sky models were dressed in Mylar® with crystal necklaces and Eagle headdresses, Wann said. According to Wann, she chose to use Mylar® because a similar substance was found at the UFO crash site in Roswell, NM.

“It’s my interpretation as an artist,” Wann said.

Models Madeline and Emily Pennington hail from the GrayHorse Village near Fairfax and Jenna Smith is from the Pawhuska Village.

Following remarks by Osage Ballet Director Randy Tinker Smith, Native-American art was auctioned to benefit the Osage Ballet. “It’s very expensive for us to continue this,” Smith said, explaining her desire to continue to offer opportunities for audiences to see Wah-Zha-Zhe an Osage Ballet telling the history of the Osage people.

The proceeds of the evening will go toward summer performances of Wah-Zha-Zhe in Skiatook and at the Coleman Theater in Miami, Okla.

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Educators, Parents and Students attend Rally on Capitol Steps

(L-R) Osage Hills Elementary School teachers Jennifer Gilkey and Mindy Englett at the Rally for Education held at the state capitol on March 31, wearing the tee-shirts Englett designed which read “In it for the outcome…not the income.”
20140331_111133_N Lincoln Blvd

By: Roseanne McKee

For the first time in over two decades, an estimated 25,000 educators, parents and students gathered on the steps of the state capitol on March 31 at 10:30 a.m. to rally for public school education in Oklahoma and the children it serves.
“We were not there for ourselves. I was there for Osage Hills, for my students, for your child and my children,” explained Osage Hills Elementary School Math Teacher Mindy Englett. “It really bothers me that there are legislators out there who thought it was selfish for us to be there.”
To bring attention to their true purpose, a group of teachers purchased and wore tee shirts designed by Englett, which read “In it for the outcome — not the income.”
In describing the highlights of the rally, Englett said, ‘the most amazing speaker I heard was a high school student who compared herself to a flower and teachers to gardeners.” According to the speaker, teachers have the power to help students blossom or wilt depending on the resources they have, Englett said.
Explaining how the rally came about, Pawhuska Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Landon Berry said, “Several months ago the Education Coalition contacted me saying that there might be a rally.”
Berry, who has been in education for over 22 years said, “the last big rally was over House Bill (H.B.) 1017.”
H.B. 1017 sought to lower class sizes and increase funding, explained Osage Hills Schools Superintendent/Principal Jeannie O’Daniel, an educator for 25 years.
A recent House Bill has gained ground since Monday’s rally. H.B. 2642, provides for “small, guaranteed increase each year through the state funding formula,” O’Daniel explained.
The conundrum is that even if H.B. 2642 becomes law, it will take time to gain the ground lost.
“They’ve been cutting us for years, they can’t replace it all in one year,” O’Daniel said.
Those interviewed echoed concerns with a central theme – the state mandated curriculum has changed and those changes have not been facilitated through funding or curriculum.
Pawhuska High School Principal Joe Sindelar: “There’s a whole new philosophy of education, but we can’t even get the textbooks and resource materials to implement it. Where is the funding for those materials?”
Osage Hills Superintendent/Principal Jeannie O’Daniel: “We’ve had reform after reform coming very rapidly and there’s no funding to back it up; and if there has been it is because they’ve taken funding away from somewhere else. We adopt textbooks on a six-year cycle, one subject per year, but we’re supposed to implement Common Core all at once.”
The resulting budget challenges are only part of the problem because textbooks containing the Common Core curriculum simply don’t exist in many cases.
“We’re scrambling to find resources that really teach the Common Core content and concepts,” O’Daniel said. “The cover of the textbook changes, but that doesn’t mean the content of the textbook has changed.”
“I agree with the general objective of Common Core, analyzing and critical thinking, but how are we going to get there? We’re not being given the tools to get there” Sindelar observed.
To complicate matters, the name of the Common Core curriculum has changed recently. Math and language arts are still referred to as “Common Core Curriculum,” but the other subjects have been renamed “Oklahoma Academic Standards,” O’Daniel explained.
One might wonder without textbooks how schools are informed about the mandated Core Curriculum and Oklahoma Academic Standards.
“The standards are provided by the state education department and tell what concepts should be taught in what grade,” O’Daniel said.
With legislation to revoke it being considered, some wonder if Common Core will remain in place. “There is talk of repealing Common Core standards so districts are now up in the air as to what the required standards will be,” O’Daniel said.
Understanding what her district faces, Math teacher Mindy Englett works to conserve resources for the benefit of her students.
“With budget cuts, resource funds are limited and it’s tougher to justify the purchase of new textbooks for a curriculum that may be repealed,” Englett said.
No matter what challenges her district faces, O’Daniel’s attitude is positive.
“I have good teachers and that makes all the difference in the world,” O’Daniel said beaming.
Describing the situation his school district faces, Dr. Berry said, “This comes down to a lack of money to educate kids. I’ve been a superintendent for 12 years and the money goes down every year. You have to reduce staff and class size increases…It’s getting to be a critical stage,” Berry said that Pawhuska Public lost over half a million in revenue for the 2013-14 school year. “We’re going to cut $200,000 more from next year’s budget,” he added.
Summing up the reason for the rally, O’Daniel said, “we’ve all reached a breaking point and that’s why we went. We’ve had major changes in the educational system in the past four years. None of these is bad, but they’ve all come at the same time without the funds to implement them.”
Dr. Berry shared a statistic: “Since 2009, percentage-wise we’ve gone through more cuts than any other state in the nation. In 2013, we were number three, and this year we’re number one according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute.”
Berry said he spoke to three state legislators on March 28 at the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce Gala about the problem. Berry’s message to the legislators: “It’s a hard choice, but we make hard choices every day. You have to step up and do what’s right for kids.”
Sindelar said that he spoke to State Representative Dennis Casey recently about his concerns. “He’s very pro-education. He gets it,” Sindelar said. “I asked Dennis, ‘does this make an impact?’ He said, ‘actually, it does.’ Teachers and administrators have an impact, but parents also make an impact…If parents call legislators to say, ‘we don’t have textbooks, or resources, it really has an impact.’”
Educators are asking their legislators important questions that deserve answers. What are the ripple effects of state legislators placing education low on the list? Are teachers drawn to work in Oklahoma public schools if the state doesn’t pay competitive wages?
“When I first went into teaching there were hundreds of applicants for each job. Now there are just two or three and schools advertise early for positions,” Englett said.
“My niece went to Missouri to work as a teacher and makes $10,000 more there,” said Osage Hills Support staff member DeDe McMillan.
Another ripple effect could be a reduction in tax revenue in the years to come.
Dr. Berry said, “We’ve got kids out there who need to be educated so they can work, pay taxes and pay in to social security for those retiring.”
It took a lot for educators to get to the point that they felt a rally was necessary,
Englett said, but “If we don’t stand up now, what’s going to happen to future generations?”

Osage Ballet to Hold Fundraiser Art Auction and Fashion Show April 25th

By: Roseanne McKee

The Osage Ballet will hold its second annual fundraiser on April 25, from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the historic Harwelden Mansion in Tulsa. In addition to an art auction, this year’s fundraiser will feature a fashion show inspired by Native American clothing by designer Wendy Ponca. Tickets will be $15 at the door. Hor D’Oerves and wine will be served. The Harwelden Mansion is located at 2210 S. Main Street in Tulsa.

“The Harwelden Mansion provides a beautiful backdrop for this elegant evening,” Director Randy Tinker Smith said. “Last year’s fundraiser exceeded our expectations and with the addition of the fashion show, we expect this year’s event to be a great success.”

Attendees may bid on the silent auction or the live auction, featuring renowned artists, including Native Americans. Works by: Anita Fields, clay figure, Ken Foster, oil painting, Joseph Chamberlain watercolor painting, Black Dog Creek, turquoise necklace, Charles Chapman, gilcee, and Jim Red Corn, print, are among the paintings and fine jewelry to be auctioned.

The funds raised will help fund the summer performances of “Wahzhazhe: an Osage Ballet,” which was well received at 2013 performances at Tulsa Performing Arts Center and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

The summer performances are planned at the Skiatook High School July 18, 19 and 20, and at the historic Coleman Theater in Miami, Okla., July 25, 26 and 27.

“These summer performances continue our efforts to provide opportunities for area residents to experience the story of the Osage people through ballet,” Smith said.

For more information call Randy Tinker Smith at 918-704-4668 or email at osageballet@gmail.com

Donations may be sent and made payable to: Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, 101 E. Archer St., Tulsa, OK 74013. This is a non-profit organization and donations are tax deductible. Also visit  the Osage Ballet Facebook page and website at: www.osageballet.com.

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Dance Maker Performing Arts Academy prepares for upcoming Open Houses March 30 and April 6 from 2-4 p.m.

By: Roseanne McKee 

Dance Maker Performing Arts Academy will hold two Open Houses on consecutive Sundays, March 30 and April 6, from 2-4 p.m. in Pawhuska at 200 Palmer Avenue. The academy is located just south of the police department in the building which previously housed the senior center.

The Open Houses will provide an opportunity for prospective students to learn the class schedule, the dress code, meet instructors and sign up while sharing light refreshments.  

Evening and day classes will be available serving students from age three to adults, Dance Director Jenna Smith explained. Classes for younger students will meet once per week, while classes for older students may meet twice or more per week.

Ballet is not just for girls. Boys are also welcome and encouraged to sign up, she added.

Initially, only ballet classes will be offered, Smith said. Later, jazz and modern dance classes and other performing arts education instruction will be added:  musical theater, drama and painting.

Smith, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Dance Performance from Oral Roberts University, is an accomplished artist and teacher. Smith has taught ballet at the Tulsa Ballet and the Jasinski Dance Academy for the past two years.

Smith began dancing when she was three, and began pre-professional ballet training in the sixth grade with Pavel Rotaru.

During her senior year of high school she studied with Prima Ballerina, Maniya Barredo, in Alpharetta, Ga., and attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts her freshman year of college as one of only eight accepted from across the U.S. into the college ballet program.

In 2012, Jenna choreographed Wahzhazhe: An Osage Ballet, which premiered in Tulsa, Bartlesville and at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the Native American in Washington, DC, in March of 2013. 

Smith, who is Osage and Cherokee, said she sees the academy as a way of giving back to the community.

“Because of the great success of this ballet, the interest in ballet is very high,” Smith said. “We look forward to serving the people of Pawhuska and the surrounding communities at our performing arts academy.”




Dance Maker Performing Arts Academy to Open in Pawhuska

By: Roseanne McKee

Inspired by the success of “Wahzhazhe: An Osage Ballet,” which was well received by local audiences and at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., Randy Tinker Smith is finalizing plans to make the Dance Maker Performing Arts Academy in Pawhuska a reality starting in April.

Many young people have dreamed of following in the footsteps of famous Osage ballerinas, Maria and Marjorie Tallchief, by becoming ballet dancers themselves. The Dance Maker Performing Arts Academy will help them achieve that dream.

The academy will be located in the building, which previously housed the Senior Center, just south of the Pawhuska Police Department at 200 Palmer Avenue.

The academy will be operated on a non-profit basis, and so the cost of classes will be kept to a minimum, Smith said. The academy will operate under and accept donations through the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, which is a non-profit organization.

Describing her vision, Director Randy Tinker Smith said she is opening the Dance Maker Performing Arts Academy to offer opportunities for arts education not only to Osage students, but to the entire community. Ballet, modern and jazz dance classes will be available to students of all ages and all levels of expertise.

“As we grow, we plan to add classes in drama, musical theater, stage craft and costume making,” she added.

Smith has applied for grants and some donations have already been received. “We have already received a $10,000.00 donation from a private donor and were recently awarded a matching grant for $7,000.00 from the Kerr Foundation,” Randy Tinker Smith said.

However, for the non-profit Dance Maker Performing Arts Academy to begin classes, additional items need to be purchased and installed. Ballet Barres, mirrors and sprung dance floors are among their top needs.

Jenna Smith, who choreographed “Wahzhazhe”, will be the Academy’s Director of Dance. She attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts her freshman year of college following nationwide auditions. Smith was one of only eight students accepted to their ballet program that year.

Jenna Smith received her Bachelor of Science degree in dance performance from Oral Roberts University in 2011. In 2012, Jenna Smith choreographed “Wahzhazhe: An Osage Ballet.”

Wahzhazhe: an Osage Ballet,” premiered in Tulsa and Bartlesville that same year. As a result of the ballet’s success, they were invited to perform at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. to sold-out crowds in March 2013.

“The ballet has 50 cast and crew members representing eight tribes. Because of the great success of this ballet, the interest in ballet is very high in Pawhuska.  With this great group of talented artists, we will be able to offer arts education in many different mediums to people of Pawhuska and the surrounding communities at our school of the arts,” Randy Tinker Smith said.

To make a donation, mail a check to Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa: 101 E. Archer St., Tulsa, OK 74103.

To sign up for a class call Randy Tinker Smith at 918-704-4668, e-mail her at osageballet@gmail.com. Also, visit their Facebook page Osage Ballet for upcoming announcements and class schedules.


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Grilling Secrets of a Barbecue Judge

Professional barbecue judge, Merl Whitebook, visited the Pawhuska Kiwanis Club recently and shared “barbecue secrets” and “biggest mistakes” he has learned from being a certified barbecue competition judge.

Those in barbecue competition know that the secret to better barbecue is adding margarine or butter, Whitebook confided. In addition, Whitebook said that his own secret ingredient was white pepper because it doesn’t compete with the barbecue flavor. “You taste it on the back of your tongue,” he explained. When grilling, “avoid salt — it dries out the meat” — and consider spraying the meat with apple juice, Whitebook said. Honey and herb and spice rubs also add flavor.

This attorney and professional Barbecue Judge for the Kansas City Barbecue Society said that the biggest mistake people make in charcoal grilling is using a whole bag of charcoal. Instead, “use about a third of it,” Whitebook said. Also, don’t place coals all the way across the grill, he advised. “When you have coals all the way across, you’re fighting the top all the time,” he said. “Otherwise, you can move your meat off the heat.” His favorite charcoal is Ozark Oak.

Whitebook explained how to tell when the meat is done. Briskets are done at “195 to 210 degrees,” he said. However, the way the meat feels is also important. When he checks the interior, he wants it “to feel like butter.” Once the meat is finished, there is another important step: “I smoke it for about an hour,” he said.

One thing that is not commonly known outside the barbecue competition world is that in these contests “chicken is parboiled in margarine or butter and finished off over direct heat. The butter penetrates it and adds a lot of flavor,” he said. However, at home Whitebook does not parboil in butter because, although it adds flavor, it also adds significant fat and calories.

Although there are things to learn from the world of barbecue competition, these techniques may not always be appropriate for home grilling. Barbecue competitions are judged on the grilling of: chicken, ribs, pork and brisket for: taste, tenderness and appearance “in that order,” Whitebook said. Some competitions also include side dishes.

There are many barbecue competitions in our area, including one in May in Claremore, he said. The winnings can be impressive. “The team of the year won $50,000 this year. Sam’s Club is putting $100,000 in prize money this year,” Whitebook said. Currently, he serves as the Secretary for the Kansas City Barbecue Society and on the New Ideas and Nominating Committee.

Sample plates of the barbecue competitors can be purchased at these events, so be sure to try one at the next competition in your area!