'Nutcracker' prince is hit Classic: Russian dancer Dmitry Tuboltsev steals the show as the prince in Ballet Theater of Annapolis' 'The Nutcracker.'

December 11, 1997|By Judith Green | Judith Green,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The title character in "The Nutcracker" is almost incidental in some versions of the popular holiday ballet by Tchaikovsky. But in Ballet Theater of Annapolis' production, he steals the show.

Through a stroke of good fortune, BTA has acquired Russian dancer Dmitry Tuboltsev for the season, and he is something to see.

Tuboltsev, whose dancing I first saw in BTA's otherwise murky "Dracula," has a lovely technique, clean and easy jumps, and exceptional stage presence. Though at 31 he's a little mature to be playing the Nutcracker Prince, BTA is not going to be doing "Swan Lake" soon; so those who want to see male grand allegro technique and gallant partnering will have to be content with the holiday standard. (Three more performances will be held this weekend at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.)

Tuboltsev is a courteous and elegant partner in the dances of the party scene; and he is quite dashing in the grand pas de deux in Act II, where he has a brilliant solo variation and partners Clara, the heroine, in a series of showy lifts and turns culminating in a breathtaking pas de poisson (fish dive).

Moreover, though he is head and shoulders above the rest of the company, he's not selfish about his skill. The other dancers already are starting to show an increased awareness of presentation and stage savvy after working with him in company class and performance.

Longtime observers of this company have noted the confidence Tuboltsev has imparted to Natasha Kirjanov since she became his regular partner. Kirjanov will be dancing the role of Clara this weekend.

Sandra Prehoda, who danced Clara last weekend, was merry enough in the first act, but she really shone in the second. Not only her duet with Tuboltsev but also the tricky steps of her solo variation were polished to a high gloss.

In general, BTA's "Nutcracker" is respectable, with some standout moments -- and some that should make the company writhe in embarrassment.

The scenery, for instance, looks as though it has been painted on old bedsheets and should be replaced as soon as the budget permits.

Artistic Director Edward Stewart's choreography is always serviceable, sometimes better. "Waltz of the Flowers" showed that he can do a lot with limited resources: It uses only eight dancers and a central couple, but the combinations are graceful and intricate. It also looks quite pretty with new costumes.

On the other hand, Stewart was far too intrusive as Drosselmeier, though this is par for the course when an artistic director assumes the role of the magician-godfather. There is no need for Drosselmeier in the second act at all; nor should he sit on the throne of the Kingdom of Sweets, as the candy figurines are dancing in honor of Clara, who has saved the life of the Nutcracker Prince.

Noteworthy dancers were the company's senior ballerina, Leslie Bradley, and Anmarie Touloumis, who alternate as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the principal Spanish dancer. I'm happy to report that principal costume designer Juliet Shore realized, as few costumers do, that a Sugar Plum Fairy should be dressed like a sugar plum: in purple, with sugar jots all over.

On the other hand, Laura Erdmann Mattera, as the Snow Queen and the hub of "Waltz of the Flowers," danced stiffly.

Sunday's matinee was a costume comedy. The Arabian dancer's harem pants split at the back seam; Jeffrey Watson almost lost one of his fur-topped boots during a dashing series of barrel turns in the trepak (Russian dance) when the fabric fastener failed to hold; and one of the flower girls came out for the waltz still attached to the side curtains by a thread. These are standard glitches with new costumes, and easy to fix.

While the costume problems fall into the category of goofs, the canned music is an insult. Is BTA too cheap to hire an orchestra, or is there no orchestra to be had? Whatever the cause, it makes for a "Nutcracker" that will never be first-rate until it remembers that the wonderful score came first.

'The Nutcracker'

Music: Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky

Choreography: Edward Stewart

Production: Ballet Theater of Annapolis

When: 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St., Annapolis

Tickets: $18, $15 seniors, $10 students Call: 410-263-2909

Pub Date: 12/11/97

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