`Split Decision' a tour de force

Dance: The Ballet Theatre of Annapolis meets the demanding challenges of an impressive new work.

March 09, 2000|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"Split Decision," a fantastic work that had its premiere by the Ballet Theatre of Annapolis last weekend, was a demanding tour de force for each of the four male dancers it showcased.

An exciting contest of classical and jazz movements well suited to contemporary French composer Claude Bolling's music, the choreography by artistic director Edward Stewart asked a lot of Dmitry Malikov and Andrey Shevaldin, who are new to the ballet this season from Moscow; principal dancer Dmitry Tuboltsev; and soloist Jeffrey Watson.

The work included huge leaps and a pairs segment where the men mirrored each other with precise timing so vigorous that they seemed to shift from being competitive to nearly combative. Watson made the dance look easy as he delivered everything asked with grace and joy, snapping his fingers to challenge his fellow dancers.

The ballet was one of four that Stewart choreographed for the evening. He designed new choreography for Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet," created an imaginative new pas de trois titled "Longings II" to music by Jules Massenet, and choreographed an exciting new ballet for the 17-member female company to Georges Bizet's Symphony in C.

Just as "Split Decision" emphasized male strengths, Symphony in C revealed the combined high energy and strength of the women. Against a plain, lighted backdrop, the troupe formed shifting geometric patterns to which soloists Christi Bleakly, Sandra Carlino, Aimee Litwiller and Amber Zecker added dynamism.

These women were not only graceful but strong, energetic, forceful and confident.

In a remarkable display of creativity, Stewart designed the innovative "Longings II" for Watson, Jennifer Dancesia and Anmarie Touloumis.

Watson displayed his easy grace and sure partnering skills as he moved from the enchanting Dancesia to the sublime Touloumis in a modern twist on the familiar changing-partners theme.

In "La Esmeralda," choreographed by A. Vaganova, husband and wife Malikov and Ninel Cherevko danced a stunning pas de deux that revealed their artistry and superb classical training. Alone, Malikov was impressive in leaps that seemed briefly to suspend him in mid-air, as well as in his grande pirouettes.

Cherevko was enchanting, displaying an exquisite lightness and playfulness as she danced with a tambourine.

She played it to punctuate the dance, which had aspects of a tribute to Russia.

Stewart lent his choreographic talents to the balcony scene from Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet," danced by principal dancer Zhirui Zou and soloist Shevaldin. Zou displayed a lightness that made her seem free of earthbound constraints, investing her Juliet with a girlish playfulness and a palpable ardor for Romeo.

Shevaldin exhibited strong partnering skills and the required romanticism.

Act Two of the classical ballet "Giselle" featured Zou in the title role, Tuboltsev as Duke Albrecht, Malikov as Albrecht's attendant, Dancesia as Myrta, Shevaldin as Hilarion, Natasha Kiryanova as Moyna, Cherevko as Zolma, and the entire troupe as the Wills -- maidens who died before they married.

Although every aspect of this classic ballet was beautifully realized, Zou and Tuboltsev created magic together. Perfectly matched to their fingertips, they showed a genuine tenderness for each other that invested their dance with great emotional impact.

As always, the audience was appreciative of the wonderful evening of dance, ecstatic to have witnessed such superb performances.

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