Moonlight on Morocco

Ballet Theatre of Maryland holds gala

June 16, 2006|By MARY JOHNSON | MARY JOHNSON,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Ballet Theatre of Maryland held its recent Evening in Morocco gala under a tent in Annapolis festooned with hanging, hand-blown Turkish lanterns and carpeted with hand-woven Oriental rugs. This transformation of the William Paca House Garden into an elegant Moroccan hideaway was accomplished by Max Onder of Karavan in Annapolis.

Adding to the atmosphere were several guests wearing Moroccan garb mingling with other party-goers, who all seemed to have fun while helping to raise funds for the ballet company.

The June 7 silent auction offered such items as a Turkish carpet, an in-home cooking demonstration for 10 and a full body scan. There were some beautifully hand-crafted items made of shells: a matched shell-framed beveled mirror and round shell planter, both designed and created by Joseph Conte, the event's honorary chairman. Conte, a builder-developer, is a strong supporter of Ballet Theatre of Maryland.

Others whose talents were on display included Maggie Sansone, whose dulcimer playing and original music contributed to the success of the ballet's Excalibur that closed the season. Belly dancer Piper Reid Hunt, a Johns Hopkins medical researcher, on this occasion artistically conveyed the celebration of life intrinsic in the Eastern dance form.

Annapolis Chorale music director J. Ernest Green served as celebrity auctioneer, revealing yet another unsuspected talent. Green has cooperated with BTM artistic director Dianna Cuatto to offer a number of performances combining the talents of the Annapolis Chorale and the Ballet Theatre of Maryland, which resulted in two memorable Nutcracker performances and a fanciful 250th birthday tribute to Mozart during Maryland Hall's Mozart festival.

Among the large group attending the fundraiser were dedicated arts supporters Anna Greenberg and Thea Pinskey, ballet enthusiasts Donna Larson, Gail Deutsch, Ruby Peterson and Marielle Martino, and Carol Treiber, executive director of Arts Council of Anne Arundel County. Ballet Theatre of Maryland dancers included Bryan and Jamie Skates, who await the arrival of their first child due next week, and another pair on and off the stage - Anmarie Touloumis and Joshua Dobbs.

BTM Artistic Director Dianna Cuatto shared with the group her plans for next season, beginning Oct. 20 and 21 with Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, hinting that she will add a creative twist to this "first contemporary ballet of the 20th century." For the Director's Choice program on Feb. 19 and 20, Cuatto announced plans to feature "our most famous American composers - Bernstein, Gershwin and Copland, who will be heard in Chichester Psalms, Rhapsody in Blue, Westside Story Suites, among others" with original works choreographed by Bryan Skates and Cuatto. The Annapolis Chorale will be guest artists at this performance.

The season will close with Stravinsky's Firebird, which Cuatto described as having "all of the elements of the traditional fairy tale, from monsters and an evil sorceress to princesses, a prince and the magic bird of fire." This program will include a new work by Keith Lee, who was formerly with the Alvin Ailey dance troupe.

In a later conversation, Cuatto mentioned that Firebird is a special favorite of hers because she was "the first American ballerina to play the role of Princess Tsarevna in the first American production of this ballet which premiered in 1968 at Ballet West." Cuatto said she also has danced Juliet, the princess and the firebird in her career, making them among her favorite ballets.

Cuatto said the fundraiser raised about $6,000.

More information on the coming season will be available later.

For general information on the Ballet Theatre of Maryland, visit www.balletmaryland.org.

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