Ballet Theatre of Md. puts musical classics in motion

20th-century composers serve as inspiration for program


February 16, 2007|By MARY JOHNSON | MARY JOHNSON,Special to The Sun

Familiar music interpreted through dance is always fascinating, and what I saw at a rehearsal at Ballet Theatre of Maryland last week promised dance audiences a treat.

Artistic director Dianna Cuatto has selected music by 20th-century American composers George Gershwin, Aaron Copeland and Leonard Bernstein for the Director's Choice program on Feb. 24 and 25.

Ballet master Bryan Skates has choreographed two of the pieces: Copeland's Old American Songs, a blend of traditional hymns and folk songs, and Sentimental Saunter, which is set to Gershwin.

Skates said Sentimental Saunter is a tribute to the dance legends in movies who inspired him to pursue a dancing career.

Through his classical ballet movements, Skates evokes the essence of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and other dance greats.

Gershwin's music lent substance to Skates' work, with "Summertime" becoming lyrical in its fluid interpretation and "Liza" as danced by Skates' wife, Jamie, bringing to life the grace and sensuality of Cyd Charisse.

The dancers also brought an unsuspected freshness to Rhapsody in Blue.

Seeing this work in rehearsal whet my appetite for the stage production at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, where elegantly costumed dancers can soar in lifts and have greater freedom of movement.

Exceeding my anticipation of Sensual Saunter is my eagerness to enjoy another partnered production of Ballet Theatre of Maryland and the Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra, collaborations that have been exciting before.

It is difficult for me to contain my enthusiasm for the music chosen.

I heard Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms," in a May 2003 Chorale performance at Maryland Hall and in April when J. Ernest Green and the Chamber Chorus performed in Owings Mills.

"Chichester Psalms" is a melding of American classical and Broadway music set to Psalms sung in Hebrew.

Filled with drama contrasted with serene faith, this powerful work may be even more inspirational when Cuatto adds the dimension of dance.

Having almost finished choreographing "Chichester Psalms," Cuatto is currently working on another Bernstein piece, drawn from his Broadway hit, West Side Story Suites. Cuatto promises to capture the composer's stylistic diversity, drama and energy.

Director's Choice will be presented at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts at 7 p.m. Feb, 24 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 25. Tickets are $40 for adults, $32 for seniors and $22 for students and will be discounted if ordered with tickets for another Maryland Hall Live Spring Arts Festival event. Call 410-280-5640.

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