Dancers debut challenging and eclectic choreography

Performance: The Ballet Theatre of Maryland offers neoclassic and jazz works accented by grace and athleticism.


Arundel Live

February 24, 2005|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Ballet Theatre of Maryland artistic director Dianna Cuatto offered an eclectic program of new works last weekend at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

It included a first attempt at choreography by dancer Bryan Skates, a new piece by Cuatto - plus another major work of hers presented only once before in Richmond, Va. - and a recent work by award-winning choreographer Nolan T'Sani.

Set to Morton Gould's "American Ballads," Cuatto's new neoclassical ballet was danced in the style of George Balanchine.

The colors of the American flag were used to create the segments of the piece. Beginning with dancers in red costumes moving against a red backdrop, seven dancers set the scene for the white and blue sections.

"White Stripes" blended neoclassical music with strong jazz elements danced by Jessica Fry and Ramon Gaitan. "Blue Field" was the most technically challenging choreography, transitioning into a well-executed blues duet by Jennifer Yackel and Skates.

Cuatto said after the performance that she was pleased that audience members expressed preferences for several different pieces.

Gauging by audience applause, the favorite Sunday was Skates' "Sentimental Saunter" - his first attempt at choreography, which consisted of two duets that will eventually become a seven-piece work in a tribute to dance in film.

"Twilight Rhapsody," danced to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," showcased the style of Hollywood's Gene Kelly and sometime-partner Cyd Charisse.

Offering sharp contrast and an interesting abstract quality was T'Sani's "Awakenings," which provided balance to the program. Danced to the haunting music of Ennio Morricone's score for the film The Mission, this work had a meditative quality that was conveyed by eight performers.

Closing the program, Cuatto described her new-age jazz ballet "Primal Dreams" as "one man's journey around the wheel of life as he tries to connect his primal dream of creation with the urban rat race." The dance - a five-part work featuring the entire company - reached its peak in the touching "Dream of Love," danced on Sunday by Skates and Fry.

The program featured all the hallmarks associated with Cuatto - a pleasing blend of neoclassic and jazz works, athletic grace and strength, and spectacular lifts integral to superb dance partnering.

Under Cuatto, Ballet Theatre of Maryland has become a tightly knit company capable of meeting many challenges. That was demonstrated last weekend, when at least half the company - including Cuatto - was ill.

One final pleasant note: At the end of Sunday's performance, Josh Dobbs proposed on-stage to longtime Ballet Theater of Maryland dancer Anmarie Touloumis. She said yes.

Comedy opening

2nd Star Theatre in Bowie opens the comedy Room Service tomorrow. This show - about a nimble-witted producer living with several actors in a Broadway hotel who finds and loses the angel he wants to produce his play - is filled with a series of hilarious obstacles.

This production follows the original stage play that was adapted for a Marx Brothers film.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays from Friday through Tuesday at Bowie Playhouse in White Marsh Park. Reservations: 410-757- 5700.

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