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Nothing Says Santa and Snowflakes like Summer Heat for OCU’s Jo Rowan

OKLAHOMA CITY –  As the thermometer spiked to 110 outside, Oklahoma City University Dance Chairwoman Jo Rowan sat dreaming of snowflakes and sewing angel costumes.

The summer months are prime planning timefor the popular Christmas show Rowan directs every year – Home for the Holidays – known as the best Broadway-style dance extravaganza west of New York City. While the show hits the stage in early December, Rowan begins the massive process of selecting music, developing choreography, designing costumes andplanning props after spring finals and completes the job before rehearsals in late August. Rowan usually starts planning by listening to selections of 2,000 to 3,000 songs. As she plans the show flow and music themes, she narrows down her selections. One of her favorite musical selections this year is “The Angel” by A. Kilmar.

Asked where her motivation to think Christmas in the middle of summer comes from, Rowan replies, “I think about Christmas all year long. I am right and left brained.”

Rowan plans the choreography, costume design, lighting and other creative elements of the show, but also schedules block rehearsals and manages other show needs with an extremely high level of organization. “I’m business as well as artistic,” she explains.

Rowan emphasized the importance of planning the show in time to allow her choreographers, costumers and company manager time to make their preparations prior to rehearsals, especially because every element of creativity for she show starts from scratch.

Instead of ordering a show matrix and script from New York, “we teach the dancers and choreograph the show,” Rowan explained. “We’re not going to the artistic grocery store, we’re raising the wheat and making the recipe.”

On a summer day in her office at the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management, you’ll find Rowan humming “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” while poring over a tack board with handwritten notes depicting the flow of the show and a notebook nearby containing her pencil sketches of costumes.

“I get so sick of red and green that when I look at street lights, I get a shock of déjà vu jingle bells,” Rowan joked.

By the time this year’s show wraps up Dec. 11, Rowan’s seven-month Christmas celebration will be over. She doesn’t decorate for the holidays at home. “My Christmas is ‘peace on Earth’ which is what God intended,” she said.

Though Rowan’s job as director of OCU’s American Spirit Dance Company – which performs Home for the Holidays,chairwoman of the dance department and full-time professor keeps her overwhelmingly busy, she wouldn’t want it any other way. Home for the Holidays is a gift Rowan and her husband, OCU Dance and Arts Management Dean John Bedford, give to their university family and the Oklahoma City community.