A pas de deux set on a stage of Latino flair

Ballet Theatre of Maryland pays homage to Hispanic culture with a Southwest take on `Carmen.'

Review

Arundel Live

Arts and entertainment in Anne Arundel County

April 15, 2005|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Ballet Theatre of Maryland Artistic Director Dianna Cuatto offered dance for every taste in her program to close the season last weekend at Maryland Hall.

The opening work, set to Ravel's "Bolero," showcased female dancers' strengths. The second dance featured three women and one man smoothly changing partners with the trio in "Bittersweet Images."

And, for classical tastes, a pas de deux from Don Quixote ended the first half. After intermission, the program's major work, An American Southwest Carmen, was presented.

`Bolero'

"Bolero" opened stylishly with the women's troupe costumed in black tights topped with short red bolero jackets.

Perched on high red stools, the dancers initially moved only their hands, gradually expanding into elaborate motions.

Dancers mirrored each other's actions and created intriguing and shifting kaleidoscopic patterns as they crossed between lines.

The ever-quickening tempo of Ravel's piece, which ends on a frantic peak, produced a suitable conclusion as dancers collapsed on the floor.

On Sunday, "Bittersweet Images" featured Ramon Gaitan as the sole male dancer.

He exhibited smooth grace and strong partnering skills with the three female dancers, who were turned away from the audience as if studying their reflections in a mirror as they waited their turns to dance with Gaitan. Each partnership revealed its own panache.

In the style of choreographer Maurice Petipa, the piece from Don Quixote was a classic pas de deux flawlessly danced by Anmarie Touloumis and Bryan Skates to satisfy the most demanding balletomane.

In the main event, set to the music of Bizet's opera Carmen, Cuatto's choreography celebrated three historical Hispanic women who survived frontier life in the 1840s Colorado Territory. Cuatto added new material to the 1997 original that revealed the strengths of BTM's dancers. Every dancer displayed a spirited rapport, high energy, athleticism and Spanish style.

Cuatto's distinctive two- and three-part lifts revealed an immediate spontaneity and strength as executed by the dancers.

The women's apparent fearlessness and complete trust in their partners was much in evidence and immensely exciting when three couples executed the complex choreography together on stage.

The three historical women were danced by Jamie Skates as Carmen Candelaria, Jessica Fry as Magdalena and Anmarie Touloumis as Nicolassa. Dressed in white, Fry created an exquisitely light, ethereal Magdalena while also conveying her character's power. Touloumis portrayed Nicolassa, Carmen's best friend.

Dueling performance

Male dancers duel over these three women, with the biggest duel beginning as a rifle challenge that precipitates the eventual demise of the relationship between Carmen and Viejo.

The cast featured Bryan Skates as Viejo Wells, Ramon Gaitan dancing both Jim Waters and La Fontaine, Justin Deschamps as Rube Herring, Jaime Lawton as Maria Lopez, and Jennifer Yackel dancing Antonia Luna.

Other cast members included Eric Frazier as John Fremont and an Indian Agent, and Al Kessler as Kit Carson and a Fur Trader, and a large supporting dance troupe.

Bryan and Jamie Skates (who are married) defined how imaginative, sensual and tender dance partners can be.

The couple created several exquisite and touching pas de deux that conveyed smoldering passion, tenderness, defiance and jealous rage, ending with the dying Carmen barely clinging to life, yet expressing an enduring love for her partner.

Cuatto used her tribute to Hispanic culture to obtain a Maryland State Arts Council grant to involve Spanish-speaking students from Bates Middle and Annapolis High schools in dance.

These young people performed with the company's dancers at both weekend performances to add distinctive charm.

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