Edward D. Stewart, 59, director of Ballet Theatre of Maryland

August 02, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Edward D. Stewart, artistic director of the Annapolis-based Ballet Theatre of Maryland since its founding, died Tuesday of lung cancer at Stella Maris Hospice at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. He was 59 and lived in Hampden.

He had been associated with the dance troupe since 1980 and taught numerous students privately, and as a faculty member at Towson University, Villa Julie College and the Baltimore School for the Arts.

The son of a coal-miners union official, he was born in Kulpmont, Pa., and graduated from Mount Carmel Catholic High School in Mount Carmel, Pa.

FOR THE RECORD - Edward D. Stewart: An obituary in yesterday's editions for Edward D. Stewart, artistic director of the Ballet Theatre of Maryland, listed an incorrect date for his memorial service. It will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St. The Sun regrets the error.

In a 1981 Sun interview, he credited Fred Astaire's movies with getting him interested in dance. "I really wanted to get into musical comedy. I took tap for 10 years, I hated ballet," he said in the article.

He danced with the Philadelphia Civic Ballet from 1966 to 1969, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre from 1969 to 1974 and the Chicago Ballet Company until 1975. After coming to Baltimore he performed in a local company, Pointe on Strings, an ensemble led by Robine Commissiona, wife of then-Baltimore Symphony conductor Sergiu Commissiona.

"The minute we started dancing, it was a match made in heaven, the greatest pleasure," said Janice Barringer, his longtime dancing partner. "He had a great sense of artistry and a genius for choreography. He created brilliant, sensitive moves - and had good sense of humor, too."

He was hired in 1980 to guide interested amateur dancers who wanted to join an Annapolis ballet company. He began work in June of that year at what was founded as Ballet Theatre of Annapolis, and by November had 16 dancers, including a construction worker, a stable groom and a sixth-grade teacher. He was their ballet master, selected the repertoire, taught and choreographed.

Each year, he staged Nutcracker at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis. In recent years, he made cameo appearances in the production as Herr Drosselmeyer.

"Over the years he dealt with hundreds of children and imparted a fatherly impression," said Jennifer Waldon, a dancer from Owings Mills. "He was determined and serious about his work. He had every quality you would want in a director - dedication, devotion and hope."

Friends recalled his chiseled face, feathery hair and a self-effacing manner that reminded them of his Pennsylvania coal region home.

"He was a tough teacher, but a fair teacher, much respected by pupils," said Anton T. Wilson, a former student who lives in Severna Park. "He'd throw people out of class if they didn't behave. He was brought up with a strong work ethic. He always encouraged hard work - and never forgot his Pennsylvania roots.

"After choreographing a lush, romantic ballet, he would sit in his beautiful garden, pop open a can of Budweiser and drink straight from the can. He hated pretension - and beer in glasses," Mr. Wilson said.

Mr. Stewart received the Maryland Council for Dance's Distinguished Service Award in 1992 and the Maryland State Arts Council's Individual Artist Award in choreography in 1993.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. today at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St.

He is survived by two brothers, Henry Stewart of Pottstown, Pa., and Michael Stewart of Harrisburg, Pa.; three sisters, Rita Stewart of Kulpmont, Jacqueline Belletiere of Hazelton, Pa., and Theresa Paul of Keiser, Pa.; and nieces and nephews.

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