Dancing troupe casts its spell

Fantasy: Ballet Theatre of Annapolis ends the season on an enchanted note by performing excerpts from fairy tales.

Arundel Live

April 20, 2000|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Ballet Theatre of Annapolis (BTA) ended an extraordinary season last weekend with a nod to the future in a program that focused on youth in its fairy-tale subject matter and by showcasing young dancers.

Forty-six dance students from Anne Arundel County and the Eastern Shore performed with the troupe's professional dancers. The children's joy and pride were contagious, adding enjoyment to the program. Newly choreographed works by the theater's prolific artistic director, Edward Stewart, spotlighted the strengths of his 26-member company and the youngsters who joined them.

In the Beatrix Potter segment of "Fairy Tale Highlights," Amber Lynn Zecker as the Hedgehog brought great fun to the dance as she moved in a deliberately awkward fashion that required skill and concentration. Ninel Cherevko, Jennifer Dancesia, Natasha Kiryanova and Anmarie Touloumis portrayed graceful Pigs. All five dancers, with their large headdresses and cute, apron-covered dresses, created whimsical, believable farmyard creatures.

"The Princess and the Frog" featured principal dancer Zhirui Zou, who would qualify as anyone's ideal princess, and Andrei Shevaldin as the Frog, who rose from a flower-festooned well. Stewart's choreography made great demands of the dancers, while it retained the essence of the fantasy. Shevaldin managed the transformation from frog to prince easily and worked well with Zou except for one frightening moment when she seemed to slip from his grasp.

"Alice in Wonderland" was filled with its very own wonder: a darling Alice danced by junior BTA member Christi Bleakly and the exquisite former BTA principal dancer Leslie Bradley as Alice's sister. Fun was provided by an ensemble of the Dodo Bird, Duck, Lion and a trio of gossiping Chickens. Dmitry Malikov's Tweedledum and Jeffrey Watson's Tweedledee added some comedy to the dance with their voluminous costumes and clownish antics.

"Snow White" completed the "Fairy Tale Highlights," which took the first half of the entire program. Ninel Cherevko played Snow White, and her husband, Dmitry Malikov, was Prince Charming. The large cast of Seven Dwarfs, animals, fairies and flowers brought Stewart's fairy tale to life.

The second half of the program was devoted to the third act of of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" with choreography after Marius Petipa. The scene opened with the entire cast assembled on stage, followed with a lovely dance by Leslie Bradley as the Lilac Fairy. The Four Fairy Princesses danced by Anmarie B. Touloumis, Amber Lynn Zecker, Jennifer Dancesia and Natasha Kiryanova were outstanding.

Choreographed by Edward Stewart, "The Garland Waltz" was beautifully danced. Memorable moments were provided by Aimee Litwiller as the White Cat and Dmitry Malikov as Puss-in-Boots, Jeffrey Watson as a spectacular Blue Bird dancing with Ninel Cherevko as Princess Florine, and Andrey Shevaldin, a fine Wolf to Jennifer Hankins' Red Riding Hood.

The triumph of the evening was the incomparable Grand Pas de Deux by Dmitry Tuboltsev and Zhirui Zou.

As usual, the costumes were magnificent, the sets tasteful, and the lighting competently done with effective projected backdrops.

There were some minor problems, including an overly long pause before the entrance of Jennifer Dancesia in the Fairy Princess segment and some gaps in the music.

My one serious complaint concerns young children in the audience, who should be better supervised by the adults who bring them. A child decided to run from the front row of the theater half way up the aisle before she was caught by her adolescent sitter only to break away again for another shorter run, again chased by the adolescent. This happened at the worst possible time -- the beginning of Zou and Tuboltsev's Grand Pas de Deux. A recurrence of this kind would convince me to advocate that BTA adopt a policy of admitting only school-age children to its future performances.

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