The Ballet Theatre of Annapolis, under the artistic direction of Edward Stewart, has been a regional mainstay for nearly 15 BTC years, creating ballets that appeal to both adults and children. This year, Mr. Stewart again used a fairy tale, "Beauty and the Beast," as his choreographic inspiration.
While children may have been enticed to the ballet because of the Disney connection, Mr. Stewart's ballet closely followed the traditional tale. In fact, this ballet was dramatically understated: not many special effects; not one dancing teapot. Instead, it was Mr. Stewart's sophisticated choreography that carried the show over the weekend.
"Beauty and the Beast" was set in three acts to a combination of musical scores by Leo Delibes and Leon Minkus. The first act set the premise that Beauty, efficiently performed by Shari Vazquez, has a stronger character than her two materially concerned sisters, danced by Ethel Leslie and Anmarie Touloumis. Mr. Stewart cast himself as the doting father who sets the adventure in motion. The balance of the first act was a lengthy, festive dance featuring BTA students.
The second act was where Mr. Stewart's imagination took over. It took place in a rose garden, where the Beast, strongly performed by Jeffrey Wilson, jealously guarded his blossoms. Leslie Bradley and Ethel Leslie were prized specimen among the garden of 12 dancers as they performed intricate footwork and delightful variations. However, the highlight was the pas de deux for Sandra Prehoda and David Miller. Mr. Stewart's choreography was full of complex lifts and technical variations that remarkably illustrated fanciful musings on roses. Ms. Prehoda and Mr. Miller turned in well-tuned performances.
While the third act closing pas de deux for Ms. Vazquez and Mr. Wilson was a perfectly acceptable romantic duet, it did not have the imaginative flavor seen in the rose duet. Instead, Mr. Stewart's strongest choreography in the third act was for Beauty's dream guides (Ms. Prehoda as the Unicorn and Leslie Bradley as the Blue Lady), who let the heroine know her father was ailing, then that the Beast was dying. Their ingenious interludes curiously overshadowed the heroine.
All in all, "Beauty and the Beast" was a pleasant home-grown production filled with gracious dancing by some of the area's brightest dancers.