Far from a tedious dance school recital, Ballet Theatre of Maryland's Summer Intensive Gala performance showcased intermediate and advanced students in an afternoon of enlightening entertainment.
Saturday's program, offered at Anne Arundel Community College's Pascal Center for the Performing Arts, included diverse selections from classical, romantic and contemporary repertoires.
Overseen by Ballet Theatre of Maryland Artistic Director Dianna Cuatto, the Summer Intensive program was open to students from all over the country who successfully auditioned for the six-week session of dancing.
Students from as far as Alabama and San Diego joined the class of predominantly BTM students to participate in the athletic cross-training program designed to train the total dancer.
Introducing Saturday afternoon's performance, Cuatto said, "Our Summer Intensive program is a great educational experience.
"We don't put dancers on pointe until they have done preparatory anatomical exercises to maintain the body when on pointe," she said. "Anatomically sound, our training creates total dancers who understand their physical bodies as all athletes must, as we focus on nutrition and injury prevention."
Fifty dancers, including nine students who had achieved apprentice status to become eligible to train with the professional company during the coming season, revealed what they had learned in classes teaching partnering and styles ranging from classical to repertory to jazz to Lester Horton-based modern choreography.
Each dancer exhibited grace and poise to form a group that firmly maintained lines and smoothly executed the choreography as a polished ensemble.
Division 3 dancers choreographed their own version of Snow White that was filled with innocent charm and fun. Working as a team, these children created easily recognizable characters including Snow White, a prince, a wicked queen and the seven dwarfs.
Classical ballet was well-represented in excerpts from La Bayadere, danced by lower-level 3, 4, and 5 groups who demonstrated what they had learned in their studies on port de bras (arm movements) and control.
The choreography was arranged by Jamie Skates, who brought style and unity to the work, which successfully amalgamated the lower-level pre-pointe students with the more-advanced pointe students.
Earlier excerpts from Swan Lake featured Divisions 5 and 6, with apprentices. A later Swan Lake excerpt featured some lovely dancing by apprentice Jessica King as Odile, with an exquisite White Swan pas de deux danced by BTM's Christi Bleakly as Odette and ballet master Bryan Skates as the Prince.
"Spunky Girl" from "Dawn Songs," choreographed by Cuatto, provided a highlight of the afternoon when danced by apprentice Sarah Knoll-Gentry. She exhibited the joy, electricity and grace of an accomplished ballerina as she was joined by exciting new BTM dancer Calder Taylor and returning stalwart Bryan Skates.
The introduction of n Taylor was an added bonus in a moving excerpt from Cuatto's American Ballads where he joined apprentice Ericka Richerick in a spellbinding "Blue Duet" that was well-executed.
In a totally different mood was a contemporary dance featuring Divisions 3, 4, 5 and 6 choreographed by Cuatto to the Jennifer Lopez song "Waiting for Tonight." The dancers seemed completely at home moving to this modern music.
The dancers also gave a joyous rendition of Scott Free, a work choreographed by Mary Marshall, Cuatto's former dance colleague who once choreographed for the Joffrey Ballet.
This Summer Intensive Gala 2005 gave dance enthusiasts another cause to celebrate Ballet Theatre of Maryland's association with Cuatto, a gifted teacher as well as superb choreographer.