Ballet Theatre of Maryland dancers show talents in repertory program

Arundel Live

October 18, 2001|By Mary Johnson | By Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Dance is perhaps the most accessible art form, appreciated by anyone who admires strength and grace. The dancer's body is the sole instrument used to communicate the choreographer's language.

With the masterly choreography of artistic director Edward Stewart, dancers of the Ballet Theatre of Maryland communicated perfectly as the theater opened its 21st season last weekend.

The company offered a mixed repertory program that introduced a spectacular pair of male dancers, and showcased returning principal ballerina Zhirui "Regina" Zou, and principal dancers Ninel Cherevko and Sergei Vladimirov, in addition to another dozen fine soloists.

With the "largest group of principal dancers in our 20-year history," Stewart said he is delighted to have a group of soloists that would be the envy of most major dance companies. The individual strengths of this international group from Mongolia, Korea and Russia were revealed in the exciting new classical and contemporary choreography Stewart created for them, managing to mount extravagant works that belie any budgetary constraints.

Stewart's choreography was well displayed in "L'Apres Midi D'Une Jeune Fille" ("Afternoon of a Young Girl"), which had its premiere Saturday evening. Perennial audience favorite Zou danced the role of the young girl with a tender innocence in discovering a young man danced by Sergei Vladimirov.

The girl finding love one afternoon is conveyed by Zou's lyricism, her trust confirmed by Vladimirov's seamless lifts. Together and in solo dance, each partner's grace and strength was revealed, with Zou seeming effortless in her fabled fouettes.

Their pas de deux was followed by an exciting segment that featured returning dancers Ninel Cherevko, Aimee Litwiller, Dmitri Malikov, Robert Michalski, Anmarie Toloumis, Jennifer Dancesia Walden, Jeffrey Watson, and Amber Lynn Zecker.

The bucolic scene was enhanced by jewel-toned costumes of emerald, bronze and ruby, tones well suited to the debut performances of new principal dancers JiHoon Yeam and Bat-Erdine Udval. Stewart also used this classical ballet to introduce new soloists Christi Bleakly, Sarah Cincotta, Alisso Dorman and Kimberly Crowder Dyer, and apprentices Ashli Yanich and Katie Lamb.

The troupe's female dancers have seldom moved with smoother, more seamless serenity, while the male dancers displayed a touch of humor along with notable vigor.

The classic serenity of the first dance contrasted with "Masquerade Suite" that followed. Here, Stewart showcased his male dancers' virtuosity. As the Harlequin, Vladimirov was spectacular in the height of his leaps. As the Jester, lovable, diminutive Yeam streaked across the stage straight into the audience's heart. His engaging good nature and intense dynamism energized him so that he spun so rapidly that he sometimes disappeared in a blur.

Jeffrey Watson as Pantaloon and Dmitri Malikov as Pierrot formed a strong duo that paired athleticism and beguiling humor. As the Doll in Stewart's "Masquerade" Sarah Cincotta made a spectacular debut that was as vibrant as her male partners'.

"Masquerade" was visually stunning with its simple backdrop featuring a giant mask festooned with streamers, and costumes that exaggerated the dancers' energy.

The performance included the famous classic pas de deux "Le Corsaire," based on the choreography of Marius Petipa, beautifully danced by Ninel Cherevko and Bat-Erdine Udval in a memorable debut pairing.

The program ended with Luis Fuente's "Momento," an innovative flamenco ballet danced on pointe by Zou with an ensemble of six ballerinas. Fuente's blend of contemporary and classic dance set to flamenco music had its premiere in October of last year in Puerto Rico, and with its roots in the Andalusian gypsies' tragic "deep song" seemed uniquely appropriate to commemorate the terrorism attacks of Sept. 11.

This flamenco dance is an intense 16-minute nonstop aerobic workout that requires strength and energy from the dancers. And each of them - Zou, Bleakly, Dorman, Dyer, Litwiller, Touloumis, Waldon and Zecker - met every challenge. They danced with incomparable style in simple black midcalf dresses with fitted bodices and bare backs that seemed sensuous and solemn.

My few complaints concern the excessive volume of the music and the small print of the printed program, which was difficult to read. As I strained my eyes, I found no mention there of the recent passing of devoted longtime Ballet Theatre of Maryland supporters Laura and George Brown, whose remembrance by friends should have been noted in the program.

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