Annapolis ballet is stylishly precise

April 19, 1994|By J. L. Conklin | J. L. Conklin,Special to The Sun

Edward Stewart, artistic director for the Ballet Theatre of Annapolis, has, with his newest ballet, "Oriental," created a wonderfully expressive abstract dance for his very talented company. The ballet evokes all the mystery, sensuality and bustle of the Orient. It premiered last weekend at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis.

The secret to the ballet's success is Mr. Stewart's fine sense of musicality, which adhered to and illustrated the evocative music by John Adams and Colin McPhee. In three movements, "Oriental" opened with "Fast-Paced City Streets," in which "Western tourists" Leslie Bradley, Ethel Leslie, Brannon Koballa and David Miller dance through the bustle of 15 bewigged, fan-brandishing dancers.

lTC Despite the numbers of dancers on stage, there is a fine air of restraint in the work. Mr. Stewart challenges his dancers but is careful not to overburden the dance with technical flourishes. At times, the dancers' movements feel clipped; they precisely bob, mince prancing steps, present a flexed foot and tilt their heads to the side. The movements create a stylistic gloss to the underlying ballet technique that is slightly cool yet intriguing.

The second section, "The World of Flowers and Willows," a softly erotic episode, features David Miller, Laura Babel, Karla Brooks, Sandra Prehoda and Shari Vazquez. Mr. Miller and his four geisha deftly dance a pas de quatre that has him as the hub of their actions.

Tony Wilson nearly stole the entire third movement, "Setsubin: Japanese Spring New Year," with his strong stage presence and expert dancing. Ritual and an air of celebration boil over into a rousing finale that brings the entire cast to the stage. Mr. Stewart and his company have created a dance that is sure to be a company mainstay.

Opening the evening was Mr. Stewart's "Snow White," a vehicle designed to show off the young dancers that attend classes at his school. This production is precious, especially in Scene II, where Snow White, deep in the woods, is surrounded by pairs of cute, furry animals danced by cute, precocious dancers.

Notable company performances include Denise Taff as the wicked queen's alter ego, the Witch; Ms. Prehoda as Snow White (although some of her mugging gets goofy at times); Vyacheslav Mesropov as the Prince; and Ms. Babel as a Blue Spirit.

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