Dance is rebounding, with new talent w,3,34 THE YEAR 1993 IN REVIEW

December 26, 1993|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Contributing Writer

The good news is that 1993 showed there is a dance scene in Baltimore, one that, from all indications, is on its way to recovery. The bad news is that while independent talent seems to be emerging everywhere, established companies have bent under economic pressures.

So what's new?

The year in dance began auspiciously enough with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company performing at the Clinton inaugural festivities. Televised to the masses -- for many, it was the first glimpse of these fantastic performers -- this gesture created a lot of good will among dancers and dance fans. It fostered hope that dance wouldn't be left on the artistic back burner of NEA grants.

As summer turned to fall and the opening of the ballet season drew near, ballet fans stewed while the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra went on strike. Aficionados used to trekking down Interstate 95 for their ballet fix wondered if the strike would be resolved before the season's debut. It wasn't. Engagements for both the Boston Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet were postponed until the spring. The Kennedy Center's aborted season left Baltimore fans hungrier for ballet, especially since Baltimore lacks a company of its own.

The Maryland Ballet disappeared for "a brief respite" a year ago and has not been heard from since. The question ballet fans keep asking hangs in the air like one of Baryshnikov's leaps: "Why can't this city sustain a ballet company?"

As the Washington Ballet knows, Baltimore can't even support a visiting company. Recently, the talented troupe canceled its spring performance at Goucher College. With its schedule whittled down from two evenings to one, the company could no longer handle the economics.

Kinetics, one of the few independent companies, has also had to deal with financial realities. Dorothy Fried, founder and artistic director of the Howard County-based company for nearly 10 years, resigned this fall. Her resignation was a board decision as the company could not support two executive positions. Managing director Ken Skrzesz is now the company's artistic director, as well.

The good news is that young moderns are pushing out of their studio cocoons. This fall, two separate performances were booked at the Baltimore Museum of Art by independent modern choreographers. All the participants -- Chris Dohse, the Baltimore Collaborative under the direction of Marsha Tallerico, Nancy Havlik's Dance Performance Group, Kimberly Mackin and Nancy Wanich Romita -- should be congratulated for filling their respective houses with fresh new faces.

Also on the plus side are the promises of bona fide performing spaces, one in Pikesville and another downtown. Considering the ebb and flow of the city's dance scene, it's hoped that the building will be for all the dancers in the city -- such as Amanda Thom Woodson, Sandra Lacey, Stephanie Powell, Jaye Knutson and Binnie Ritchie Holum, and all the others who are becoming self-reliant and willing to work together to get their art out.

YEAR IN DANCE

* Dance on the Edge continues to be the bright spot in Baltimore's dance scene. The Dance on the Edge series opened PTC 1993 with the movement wizards, Michael Moschen and Bob Berky, in "The Alchemedians" to a standing-room audience at Towson State University. This fall, DOE audiences were wowed again with the performances of "Donald Byrd -- The Group," a troupe that could go from zero to thrill in 2.1 seconds.

* Highlights of the 1993 Kennedy Center season included the cultural expose, "France Dance." From Compagnie Mathilde +V Monnier to the Paris Opera Ballet, this was a series that reminded us that the French not only gave us couture but also Camus.

* Also at the Kennedy was "Men Dancing," a tribute to the seminal choreographer Ted Shawn and a celebration of the physical power of men who dance.

* Ballet and modern dance fans got together when Mikhail Baryshnikov and Twyla Tharp gave a simple, entertaining duet performance at the Warner Theater that was pure fun.

* The Columbia Festival of the Arts presented the amazing Theatre of MoMix and A Gala Evening of Ballet, which featured ballet superstars Amanda McKerrow, John Gardner, Christina Johnson, Donald Williams, Lisa Sundstrom and Scott Jonovich.

* The Baltimore-based ice-dance company, the Next Ice Age, performed its magic at the Northwest Ice Rink in May; then, Artistic Directors Tim Murphy and Nathan Birch choreographed Dorothy Hamill's Ice Capades production of "Cinderella -- Frozen in Time" at the Baltimore Arena.

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