Ballet opener impresses

Dancers: Ballet Theatre of Maryland proves it's up to the challenge of its new director and her spectacular choreography.


Arundel Live

October 16, 2003|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Annapolis-based Ballet Theatre of Maryland opened its 24th season during the weekend with the debut of its artistic director Dianna Cuatto.

Ballet Theatre of Maryland dancers and Cuatto are off to a noteworthy start with spectacular choreography beautifully executed by a well-integrated, tight-knit troupe of dancers.

A logical successor to founder and artistic director Edward Stewart, Cuatto shares his respect for dancers, exhibiting a similar ability to showcase their strengths while creating lovely scenes. Beautiful to watch, Cuatto's choreography is moving the company to a new contemporary level.

Last weekend, returning dancers Anmarie Touloumis, Christi Bleakly and Jaime Lynn Lawton danced as exquisitely as they did in past seasons, adding their distinctive grace. Recently appointed ballet master Blake Beardsley, who appeared in a number of guest roles last season, lent his considerable talents to several segments at the opening performance.

Joining them were a dozen dancers chosen by Cuatto, each of whom displayed superb technique, remarkable athleticism and ease with modern dance. Victor Carnesolta, Joshua Dobbs and Ramon Gaitan were highly accomplished, exciting dancers, with superb partnering skills that included performing spectacular lifts.

Danse Macabre, with music by Saint-Saens, and Hitchcock Presents, featuring Gounod's Dance of the Marionettes, along with Masque of the Red Death offered glimpses of Cuatto's whimsy and generosity.

With her dance trio's hats set at rakish angles and their jaunty postures, Cuatto gave a nod to Broadway's Bob Fosse. Not imitative, Cuatto later seemed to acknowledge San Francisco's Largo Lubovitch in her brief pairing of males lifting one another in moves reminiscent of Lubovitch's Othello.

In the demanding choreography of The Masque of the Red Death, Jamie Durrwachter, dancing the role of Pestilence, proved amazingly skilled and possessed boundless energy, as did her partner, Joshua Dobbs, dancing the part of Death.

The pair were outstanding when joined by an ensemble interweaving "children" dancers in close precision with the three waltzing couples to form an intriguing kaleidoscope of changing color and form. The fantastic element was heightened by Ravel's La Valse, its melodic strains inexorably moving toward chaos signaling a world gone awry.

Next on the program was Firebird, choreographed to the music of Igor Stravinsky. Cuatto's Firebird was riveting with its contrasting sweetness and high drama.

As the Firebird, Jessica Fry performed with great sensitivity, growing stronger with the increased demands of the role. Victor Carnesolta provided plenty of dance fireworks while proving himself a skilled, sensitive partner to Fry and later to Christy Bleakly's Princess Tsarevna. Touloumis was brilliant in the role of Sorceress Katschela.

Firebird completed a magical evening that promises much for area balletomanes.

After three performances of Edward Stewart's The Nutcracker in December, Cuatto's choreography will again be displayed in February in a program called Latin Romances and in April with American Classic.

Information: 410-263-8289.

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