`Letter' perfect at season's end

Performance: Ballet Theatre of Maryland's adaption of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel to dance creates an ideal accompaniment.

Review

Arundel Live

April 08, 2004|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Ballet Theatre of Maryland closed its season with a stunning adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter choreographed by artistic director Dianna Cuatto.

Last weekend's program also featured two shorter Cuatto ballets: "Prelude, Fugue and Rifts" danced to Leonard Bernstein's Clarinet Concerto, and "Lumieroque" with music by Albinoni.

The improvisational eight-minute "Prelude, Fugue and Riffs" was a lively opener that perfectly fit Bernstein's very American music and stretched the dancers.

Featuring two male and five female dancers, this athletic workout moved beyond mere fish dives into an acrobatic realm of lifts with aerial flips and spirals. Punctuated by fluid Fosse-like hip movement, this highly energetic informal piece was enhanced by the dancers' costumes of black-and-red leotards and white gloves.

In her pre-show talk on "Lumieroque," Cuatto said: "It is based on aspects of light as it shines through the stained-glass windows of baroque architecture with relevance to Johannes Kepler's `Theory of Planetary Motion' and was also inspired by the film Mindwalk relating to how light is truth and life."

An Internet search on Renaissance scientist Kepler after the performance showed that the elliptical patterns formed by the dancers resembled elliptical movement of the planets described by Keppler.

"Lumieroque" proved a tour de force performance for dancers Ramon Gaitan, Jessica Fry, Jaime Lawton and Christi Bleakly, revealing their fluid, seamless pairings.

The highlight of the evening was Cuatto's The Scarlet Letter, a dance filled with searing drama and tenderness that sensitively interpreted the American literary classic in a new way. Costumes designed by Cuatto were excellent representations of Puritan garb that for their stiff appearance moved well with the dancers.

The skillful, dramatic lighting was by David Gross. Cuatto combined several compositions by 20th-century American composer Samuel Barber to create a perfect accompaniment to the dance.

Cuatto's additions to Hawthorne's novel contributed to the telling of the tale - giving prominence to the Witch Lady Mistress Hibbins and to the Native American shaman, imparting contrast and color.

The cast of principal dancers included Jamie Durrwachter as Hester Prynne, a role that required her to evolve into a strong woman and loving parent and partner. Dancing her first major role, Durrwachter gave a multidimensional portrayal.

Blake Beardsley played Hester's lover, the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, with strength and sensitivity. In his pas de deux with Durrwachter's Hester, he conveyed an enormous longing, a poetic soulfulness and palpable tenderness, often without touching his partner.

Gaitan brought all the power and dramatic force ballet enthusiasts have come to associate with him in the role of Hester's long-lost husband Roger Chillingworth. In addition, Gaitan provided an exciting and threatening nuance.

As Mistress Hibbins and Witch Lady, Aaron Hutto added undeniable charisma. Hutto's imposing stature lent majesty to leg extensions during magnificent splits in midair and from a standing position.

Jennifer Yackel danced 13-year-old Pearl with charming exuberance and feeling, and Jayson Douglas added a raw power as Chief Tamaned.

Last weekend's performances ended the official season with the fourth annual Fun Ball scheduled April 17. Information: 410-263-8289.

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