Pennsylvania Ballet's benefit draws an old friend from Maryland

March 21, 1991|By Eric Siegel

Last Saturday, Philip Carman, co-founder and artistic director of the Maryland Ballet, traveled to Philadelphia for a benefit performance by dancers of the Pennsylvania Ballet to aid their company, which is fighting for its financial life.

Mr. Carman's presence there wasn't a case of misery loving company, although his own troupe has had well-publicized money troubles of its own that have caused it to cancel half of its subscription series.

"I just felt I wanted to see it," Mr. Carman, who danced with the Pennsylvania Ballet in the early 1970s, said this week. "One never knows if it's going to be around."

The trip also provided a welcome respite from Mr. Carman's efforts to raise money for the Maryland Ballet, which will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Dundalk Community College Theatre.

Sunday's performance will be only the second by the company in the last three months. It is being undertaken only because the college is paying a performance fee to the Maryland Ballet that will cover the cost of staging the program, including payments to the dancers. The company performed last month under a similar arrangement at Loch Haven College in Pennsylvania. Three subscription performances in January and another three earlier this month were canceled because of financial troubles.

Asked if Sunday's performance was going to be an emotional experience for the embattled troupe, Mr. Carman answered, "Not really."

"We have a job to do and we're going to go out and do it," he elaborated. "The only emotional part is the uncertainty. You don't know what is happening next.

"It doesn't release you artistically. It kind of holds you. That's why I haven't been able to [choreograph] anything new. I usually do four to six new ballets a year. This year I've done only one -- 'Night Music' in October."

Still, Mr. Carman recognized that the major impact of the Maryland Ballet's financial troubles has been on its 12 dancers, who were laid off in early January.

"It's like if you're a steelworker and you get laid off from Bethlehem Steel, you have to look elsewhere for your livelihood," he explained. "For the most part, they've gone into the community and gotten little jobs."

"A couple," Mr. Carman said, have left the company: One moved up her wedding date and moved to England to get married; another took a temporary job with another dance company.

For Sunday's performance, Mr. Carman said he recruited "dancers I know personally" to join the "core group" that remains. And he deliberately put on the program four works that the ballet has previously performed.

The ballet's board of directors is expected to announce shortly its plans for its three May subscription concerts and next year's performances.

In the meantime, Mr. Carman takes solace in one aspect of the Pennsylvania Ballet's situation. That company needs to raise $1 million to stay afloat, 10 times what the Maryland Ballet is seeking.

"At least," he said, "we don't have to climb Mount Everest like they do."

Maryland Ballet

When: 3 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Dundalk Community College Theatre, 7200 Sollers Point Road, Dundalk.

Tickets: $10; $9 senior citizens; $6 students.

Call: 285-9850.

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