American literature on toe

Dance: Ballet Theatre of Maryland ends its season with Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter."


Arundel Live

April 01, 2004|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Artistic director Dianna Cuatto's first season with Ballet Theatre of Maryland closes this weekend with two performances of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.

Cuatto caps an exciting season of contemporary, classic and neoclassic choreography with a flesh-and-blood heroine from an American literary classic, far removed from the usual formulaic, Cinderella-like ballet subject.

Hawthorne's mid-19th- century novel tells the story of Hester Prynne, perhaps the first feminist heroine. Set in Puritan New England, Hawthorne's novel deals with guilt, revenge, morality and responsibility.

When Hester bears a child that is not her husband's, she is forced by her community to wear a scarlet letter, "A" for "Adulterer," as she embarks on a journey that strengthens her spirit and leads her to redemption and forgiveness.

Danced to music by Samuel Barber, Cuatto's Scarlet Letter is double cast with Jamie Durrwachter and Jessica Fry portraying Hester. Her illegitimate daughter, Pearl, will be danced by Jennifer Yackel and Jaime Lawton.

Ramon Gaitan and Blake Beardsley will portray Hester's lover, the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale. These dancers will also alternate in the role of Roger Chillingworth, Hester's husband-in-disguise.

Gov. Bellingham will be danced by Mark Bud. Joey Vitello will play Master Jailor Brackett. Mistress Hibbins, the governor's sister and a witch, will be danced by Aaron Hutto and Anmarie Touloumis.

Other characters in the book or added by Cuatto are Sarah Bellingham, danced as a girl by Christi Bleakly and Cathy Cannizzo and as an adult by Kristin Brown and Aaron Hutto; Priscilla Hollingsworth, danced by Jaime Lawton and Jessica Fry; and Chief Tamaned, based on a Native American shaman, who will be danced by Jayson Douglas.

On choosing The Scarlet Letter, Cuatto says, "When I started looking for themes, I noticed that only two American stories had been turned into ballets - Faulkner's A Rose for Miss Emily and Tennessee Williams' Streetcar Named Desire. In many ways, The Scarlet Letter is written like a play, complete with cues, lighting and narration. I loved the combination of the romantic and the psychological elements. Written in the mid-19th century, it sits at the fork where classic and contemporary literature meet."

In two acts, The Scarlet Letter is one hour with a five-minute intermission. The first act centers on Pearl as an infant, and the second, containing the substance of the ballet, shows a 13-year-old Pearl. Cuatto describes the tone as "modern and stylistic, as it sets up the characters and the ambience of the piece."

In addition to the Annapolis Scarlet Letter premiere, Ballet Theatre of Maryland will present two shorter pieces choreographed by Cuatto: Lumieroque, a piece for one male and three female dancers set to Albinoni's Adagio in G, and Prelude, Fugues and Riffs for an ensemble, juxtaposing the freedom of jazz with the more controlled elements of a clarinet concerto.

Seats are available for Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Ticket prices range from $33 to $43, with discounts for students, seniors and children younger than 12. To order, call 410- 263-5544 or go to www.mary

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