The Ballet Theatre of Annapolis celebrated its 10th anniversary this weekend with two gala performances at its home, the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis.
BTA, which has thrived under the artistic direction of Edward Stewart for a decade, is a strong and personable troupe whose dancers create a true sense of ensemble. Throughout the program of seven dances, one felt that this company not only enjoyed dancing, but that they genuinely liked dancing with one another.
In addition to regular company members, Mr. Stewart brought in four guest artists for this anniversary celebration -- Alla Khaniashvili-Artiushkina and Vitaly Artiushkin, former principal dancers with the Bolshoi Ballet; Michael Barriskill, recently from "Cats" on Broadway, and Janice Barringer, who has a long and rich history with the company.
The highlights of the program Saturday were two pas de deux performed by the Soviet couple. In the Grand Pas de Deux from "Giselle," Ms. Khaniashvili was exceptional in the role of the doomed sprite. She had complete command of the impetus of the movements, and was able to hit the climax of a phrase -- a pose on one toe or a high leap -- with perfect ease. She was so secure in her actions, her phrasing and control were so clear and her dancing so truly remarkable that the audience could not help but respond warmly.
As the wicked Odile in the Black Swan Pas de Deux from "Swan Lake," her brilliant footwork and expressive force was sheer pleasure to watch. Her partner (and husband) was not only technically true but he also brought a sincere concern to his role.
Opening the evening was "Carmen," choreographed by Mr. Stewart.
Ms. Barringer, dancing the title role with fine technique, at first looked too wholesome to be the devious temptress. Yet her first encounter with Don Jose (Mr. Stewart) was delightful in its self-assured seduction. Her pas de deux with the infatuated Don Jose in Scene 2 was solid and strikingly expressive. Mr. Barriskill earned cheers as Escamillio as he covered the stage with brash and enthusiastic leaps and jumps.
The balance of the program consisted of excerpts of dances that Mr. Stewart had choreographed during the company's history.