In what promises to be a most exciting season, Annapolis ballet will have a new name, new leadership and new status.
Artistic Director Edward Stewart has announced that his company will now be known as Ballet Theatre of Maryland, reflecting its new status as the only full-time professional ballet company in the state.
Stewart also announced the company's new executive director, Lorraine Commeret, and unveiled the troupe's 20th anniversary season.
Having joined the company in April, Commeret is fully grounded in most aspects of Ballet Theatre's coming season. She says she looks forward to learning "more about the history and extraordinary growth of this wonderful organization."
Commeret holds a doctorate in theater history, has taught college-level theater arts courses and has been a management consultant. She has a deep appreciation for the creative talents of the artistic director and expects her greatest challenge to be "helping the organization fulfill its new role, providing world-class ballet to a variety of Maryland locations."
Before describing the coming season, Stewart acknowledged the role of former principal dancer Dmitry Tuboltsev, saying that the company "would not be where it is today without Tuboltsev's great contributions."
Stewart announced that he has hired Kiev-trained Nikola Balatsenko as a soloist this season. Balatsenko danced with the Washington Ballet last season in its production of "Carmina Burana." Stewart also said he is looking forward this season to dancing with his "partner of 20 years, Janice Barringer."
He also anticipates the return of audience favorite Leslie Bradley, to be featured in several cameo appearances.
The 2000-2001 season will open in October with a 20th Anniversary Gala. Richly varied, the program will include "Black Swan Pas de Deux" from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," danced by principal ballerina Zhiriu Zou and Tuboltsev.
Stewart has choreographed a lighthearted "Soirees Musicales" in five divertissements with music by Benjamin Britten. Stewart has also choreographed "Gershwin Selections," with dancers accompanied on stage by Baltimore-based pianist Doug Yetter.
The program will feature special New York City Ballet guest artists Charles Askegard and Wendy Whelan in "Two Balanchine Pas de Deux," and will conclude with "The Eleventh Commandment," expressing the conflict between man's spiritual and carnal natures set to Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana."
On two weekends in December, the theater will bring the perennial favorite of the holiday season, "The Nutcracker," to audiences at Maryland Hall and at Chesapeake College on the Eastern Shore. Zou will star as the Sugar Plum Fairy.
A Spring Reunion Anniversary Celebration will be offered in March with a work premiered by guest choreographer Anton Wilson; "Oriental Express," choreographed by Stewart; and "Allegro Romance," a sensual abstract work by Stewart, danced to the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff.
The season will close in April with a three-act "Cinderella" ballet with music by Serge Prokofiev and a surprise cast dancing the roles of stepmother and stepsister.
Ballet Theatre of Maryland is offering 20th-anniversary season subscriptions.
Subscribers receive a substantial discount from single-ticket prices and get first choice of seats, invitations to free receptions, ticket exchange privileges, a complimentary newsletter and waiver of handling fees.
Subscriptions to all four performances are $90 for adults and $50 for children and students. A three-performance series with the fund-raiser gala is available for $70 for adults and $40 for students, and a three-performance series without the gala is $55 for adults and $30 for children and students.
Information: ballet box office, 410-263-2909.
20th Anniversary Fundraising Gala: Oct. 13, 14 at 8 p.m.
"The Nutcracker": Dec. 9 at 2 p.m., Dec. 10 at 3 p.m., Dec. 16 at 2 and 7 p.m., Dec. 17 at 3 p.m.
Spring Reunion Anniversary Celebration: March 9, 10 at 8 p.m.
"Cinderella": April 21 at 8 p.m.. April 22 at 3 p.m.
All performances at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts