Spectacle, novelty, nearness Movement: Season is full of big ballets and fresh works -- some in Baltimore

Fine Arts Preview

September 21, 1997|By Judith Green | Judith Green,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For those partial to spectacle ballets, the 1997-1998 season is full to the brim. But it's also crackling with exciting new dance by local and national companies.

Best of all, Baltimore-area dance audiences won't have to drive to Washington every time they want to see dance. Though the Kennedy Center is still the place to see national companies, a good amount of quality dance crops up in Baltimore, or within a reasonable radius of the city.

Classical masterpieces, for instance, can be found in many places: at Goucher College, where dance students are learning George Balanchine's "Serenade" for performance in November; at the Washington Ballet, readying a retrospective of the late Choo-San Goh's work for an Oct. 28 evening at the Warner Theater; and at the Baltimore Museum of Art, where the Eva Anderson Dance Company this weekend offers "Ictus," a work by the African-American choreographer Rod Rodgers.

There are story ballets aplenty, from Ben Stevenson's "Don Quixote" by the Houston Ballet at the Kennedy Center (Oct. 14-19) to Ballet Theater of Annapolis' "Dracula" (Oct. 17-18). It's also a good bet that American Ballet Theater, which hasn't announced repertory yet, will bring Lar Lubovitch's new "Othello" when it comes to the Kennedy Center (April 7-12).

And premieres dot the landscape, from Kimberly Mackin's "Pictures at an Exhibition" to celebrate the expansion of the art gallery at Villa Julie College in Stevenson (Oct. 16, then Nov. 8 at the Baltimore Museum of Art) to David Parsons' "Channeling," a look at the mass media, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. (Sept. 27).

Other new ventures this fall: Los Angeles dancer Ping Chong opens the multimedia "After Sorrow (Viet Nam)" at the Dance Place in Washington (Oct. 3-5); then Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane & Company unveils "We Set Out Early Visibility Was Poor," commissioned by the Kennedy Center (Oct. 31-Nov. 2).

Here's a suggestion, though, that cuts across boundaries and styles: Dance is an ideal way to introduce children to all the arts. It moves; it sings; it tells stories. Even a die-hard sports fan can marvel at its athletic virtuosity.

This is a banner season for works with a young audience in mind. Right after Ballet Theater of Annapolis' new "Dracula" (just in time for Halloween!), the Ohio Ballet from Akron and the Dhananjayan Bharata Kalanjali Dance Company of Madras, India, come with the adventures of Mowgli and his animal friends from Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" (Oct. 21) to the Gordon Center in Owings Mills.

National Ballet in Bowie brings to life the "Tales of Beatrix Potter" -- Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Jemima Puddleduck and other charming creatures from Potter's illustrated stories -- at Bowie State University (April 2-4).

Oakland Ballet from California comes to the Gordon Center (Feb. 21-22) with its lovely full-length production of "The Secret Garden," based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett of a lonely girl on an immense estate in Yorkshire. If you liked the Broadway musical, this is better: It's easier to understand, richer in character and closer to the story.

Washington Ballet also delves into fairy tales with "Hansel and Gretel," to be presented at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater (Feb. 19-22). And the dancers of Peabody Conservatory's preparatory division recap "The Snow Queen," based on Hans Christian Andersen's story (Dec. 14-15).

Kimberly Mackin's "Pictures at an Exhibition" also speaks to children. Rather than make dances about pictures, she has made dances about the way images are created: carved from clay, painted on canvas, assembled from objects or hung from wire as a mobile. Also, when her company performs "Carmina Burana" at the Gordon Center with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society (May 17-19), she has made an abridged version to introduce children to this powerful choral work (May 16).

The companies that perform at venues like the Kennedy Center are usually too expensive and high-art for families, but Eliot Feld's new company, Ballet Tech, is accessible to all with "Meshugana Dance" (Dec. 2-6), set to klezmer music. "Meshugana" is the Yiddish word for nutty, and klezmer music -- sometimes called "Jewish jazz" -- suits it perfectly.

Also recommended: Goldhuber & Latsky, who perform at the Dance Place in Washington (Oct. 18-19) and at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in April. Lawrence Goldhuber and Heidi Latsky, who dance with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane & Company, are a funny pair: a 300-pound wrestler and a willow-thin dancer. Their program, "Do We Dare?", counterpoints size and shape -- and Goldhuber, surprisingly light on his feet, shows that dance is something anyone can do.

Finally, the Dance Place in Washington offers a fabulous family series potpourri, which includes three tap companies, an African dance festival, a youth dance festival, a hip-hop company called Natural Elements and the Nanfoule Folkloric Dance Ensemble.

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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