Energy in short supply at ballet season opener

October 28, 1994|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Special to The Sun

Last weekend's season-opening fall program from the Ballet Theatre of Annapolis was a less-than-gripping affair that made time pass slowly.

I'll not dispute that BTA has access to many exceptionally talented dancers whose physical exploits are a pleasure to watch. But from a theatrical perspective -- and we're talking about dance theater after all -- this one was a bit of a snoozer that smacked of unvarying mood, indifferent execution and (I'll just bet) minimal rehearsal time.

Facial and anatomical energy seemed muted all night long, and the hell-for-leather elan that marks BTA at its best was just nowhere to be found.

"Oriental," tracing a visit by Westerners to Japan, was danced to the vapid minimalism of John Adams' music. Alas, the music's joyless, repetitive patterns spilled over into the choreography.

The Western tourists occasionally kicked up their heels in style, but the Easterners came across tepidly. Even the "Evil Spirit" presence danced by the talented Tony Wilson seemed curiously devoid of menace. If there was a bona fide dramatic program linking these dances, I didn't tumble onto it. They seemed loosely confederated at best.

The modern dance genre was represented by guest choreographer Stephanie Powell's "Family Ties . . . Ties That Bind." Though the human pinwheels quickly became tiresome, the suite proved to be a pleasant exploration of the theme of community.

There was palpable sweetness in "The Coming of Age," and the languid "Intermezzo," danced to the famous Mascagni interlude from "Cavalleria Rusticana," was wonderfully graceful. But the spell was broken by a visible offstage photographer whose obnoxious clicking ruined the performance.

A BTA supporter taking pictures for the company scrapbook? Talk about a self-inflicted wound!

The froth quota came by way of "Gaite Parisienne," a Gallic romp danced to a miserable recording of Offenbach's racy ballet suite of the same name. Here, the pace picked up with admirable tumbling and some cute, if repetitious, jokes from Mr. Wilson dancing in drag as the nightclub owner, Mme. Bouvier. But even amid this colorful action, the dancers seemed cautiously distanced from their audience, as though someone had substituted grape juice for the fruity, bubbly French stuff.

Let's hope the fizz returns in time for December's run of "The Nutcracker."

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