Performances have visual appeal

Ballet company's technique, costumes create impressive show

March 15, 2001|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Ballet Theatre of Maryland continued its 20th anniversary season last weekend at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts with a program that offered all the components associated with the troupe and artistic director Edward Stewart.

It had innovative choreography that showcased the artistry of new and returning principals, soloists and the entire company; classical ballet contrasting with a startling new commissioned work; and consistently strong visual appeal in each dance.

The program opened with "Oriental," an exotic work of immense energy and arresting visual appeal choreographed by Stewart to the music of John Adams.

Female dancers moved rapidly and precisely across the stage in a dazzling array of color inspired by Juliet Shore. The costumes ranged from pastel to hot pink and purple, and featured obis - broad sashes with a bow in the back - to complete the kimono look and large silver fans.

These "ladies in kimonos" and "ladies in purple" were interrupted by powerful dancing by Nickolai Balatsenko as Hata. They were joined by the contrasting broad, sweeping movements of the elegant ballroom dancers - "the four Western tourists" Leslie Bradley, Robert Michalski, Anmarie Touloumis and Jeffrey Watson, wearing traditional evening clothes.

A complete contrast followed in the classical Marius Petipa-inspired pas de deux, "La Esmeralda," with Ninel Cherevko and Dmitri Malikov, both formerly of the Moscow City Ballet and introduced to BTM audiences last season.

Cherevko and Malikov exhibited a commanding stage presence with near-flawless technique. Cherevko displayed added charm as she danced with a tambourine that she touched to her elbow and toe, adding rhythm with agility.

Another classical ballet followed with the entire company performing Marius Petipa's "Don Quixote Variations." Outstanding soloists included Kymberly Lynne Dyer, Aimee Litwiller, Jennifer Dancesia Waldon and Amber Lynn Zecker.

Previously Novobirsk Theater principal dancer, Sergei Vladimirov was introduced to BTM's audience in a pas de deux with returning principal ballerina Zhirui Zou.

Vladimirov revealed impressive leaps and turns along with wiry agility and strength. Capable of extraordinary lifts, Vladimirov proved to be a strong partner to the exquisite Zou, although her former partner Dmitri Tuboltsev casts a long shadow.

After intermission, the entire company performed in Stewart's "Allegro Romance" set to the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff, featuring his "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini" - a selection that illustrates Stewart's ability to reveal every vestige of romanticism in the music without descending into trite. This was a supremely lyrical dance, beautifully interpreted by BTM's gifted ensemble.

Stewart encourages bold work that stretches the company and the audience, and found the right choreographer in Anton Wilson. Wilson led the company on a huge leap forward into the millennium with "The MarblesSlide."

This abstract dance dealt with old themes: an abandoned young woman left to ponder her fate beside her hope chest, a Greek chorus-like quartet of female dancers condemning her unfaithful lover, dancers off-stage tossing cloths as if they were abandoned dreams, ebullient dancers backstage sliding down a pole visible through slightly parted curtains.

Male dancers Balatsenko, Malikov, Michalski, Vladimirov and Watson seemed to defy gravity, leaning so far to the side as if blown by strong winds, yet maintaining balance. Leslie Bradley was coolly elegant yet at home in this modern idiom.

Wilson's choreography had to represent a challenge for most of the dancers, but a stretch they seemed to relish. One of the reasons Zou came to BTM was to gain experience in modern dance, and she showed such joy and openness to the modern form and such an affinity for it that she gained new visible freedom and sensuality.

Wilson made lighting an essential element of his "MarblesSlide" choreography - from the first moment with a flashlight illuminating the face of one of the dancers, through its semi-darkened and spotlighted segments.

Next on tap is "Cinderella" in four performances, April 21 and 22 at Maryland Hall in Annapolis, and April 28 and 29 at Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts in Brooklyn Park.

Information: www.btmballet.org, 410-263-2909 for Maryland Hall performances, or 410-636-6597 at Chesapeake Center.

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