Ballet presents uplifting program

Family show features `Beauty and the Beast'

April 29, 1999|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It was fortuitous that Ballet Theatre of Annapolis scheduled its "Family Ballet" program, the last of its season, last weekend. It provided an uplifting diversion from the news of the massacre in Littleton, Colo.

The program included "Beauty and the Beast" and Act II of "Swan Lake," classical ballets with themes of the redemptive power of love. "Beauty and the Beast" was choreographed by BTA's artistic director Edward Stewart, whose work shows his artistic vision, strong sense of dance dynamics and ability to showcase the talents of each dancer. Stewart also danced as Beauty's father, a role requiring the athletic prowess to do dancing battle with Jeffrey Watson's Beast.

As Beauty, Shari Vazquez conveyed her character's essence with a minimalist restraint, using hand gestures to express her loving concern for her father and her transition from pity to love for the Beast.

The mask and headdress of the Beast proved no encumbrance to Watson's formidable dancing skill. He touchingly communicated emotion, reaching a peak when he shed his mask, transformed through Beauty's love into a handsome prince.

The set was enchanting, especially in the dreamlike sequence in which three arches provided niches for Beauty's sisters, with Beauty and her ill father in the center.

The high point of "Beauty and the Beast" was the pas de deux danced by Zhirui Zhou and Dmitry Tuboltsev, the Chinese and Russian expatriates who have raised the level of performance at BTA. They displayed flawless technique, fluidity and grace.

Leslie Bradley, BTA's principal dancer, appeared in Act II as the Lady, treating the audience to her exquisite beauty and fluid grace.

Zhou and Tuboltsev returned in Act II of "Swan Lake" as Swan Queen Odette and Prince Siegfried, with Aram Manukyan as Von Rothbart, and perhaps exceeded the high expectations of the audience. This definitive classical ballet was well realized. Manukyan, magnificently costumed, all but emitted sparks as he danced as the spirit of evil.

Zhou and Tuboltsev are reaching legendary status in Annapolis. They again seemed flawless. Tuboltsev is powerful enough to execute the most difficult lifts smoothly and so light that in his descents he seems barely to touch the floor. Zhou's trust in Tuboltsev is obvious, adding reliability to his strengths.

Zhou is to remain in Annapolis next season, Stewart announced after the program. The ballet is programming "Don Quixote," "Sleeping Beauty" and "Ellington Suite" and several other family offerings.

Information: 410-263-2909.

Pub Date: 4/29/99

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