A show of grace and promise

Ballet Theatre's summer program students have made great strides

August 07, 2008|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Sun

The Ballet Theatre of Maryland's Summer Intensive 2008 Gala Performance was an entertaining event showcasing student progress.

The program at Anne Arundel Community College's Pascal Center for the Performing Arts included selections from classical, modern and contemporary repertoires. Included was an excerpt from Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Dianna Cuatto's Dawn Songs, as well as excerpts from La Bayadere, Paquita and Coppelia. A whimsical acting segment featured interpretations of "Cinderella," illustrating how the dancers had learned to tell stories without words.

The program also included an advanced drama section featuring excerpts from Excalibur danced by Alden Taylor, Matthew Stern and Rose Whitney. The audience was also treated to "Mama Mia" by intermediate jazz students and a lively number, "We Are Family," by advanced beginner and intermediate tap dancers.

In her introduction, Cuatto promised that this fifth Summer Intensive Gala would be the best yet because the 47 students had made the most progress of any year. Because of vacations and other commitments, not all 47 students danced in Saturday's program. The six-week program focuses on maximizing the dancer's physical health over the longest period.

This year, some of the students were selected by choreographers in the Choreographic Institute to dance in their new works. The Choreographic Institute is intended to foster the development of new choreographers and to allow dance students to work directly with them.

This year's gala program featured new works by emerging choreographers Meagan Helman, David McAlister and Robert Royce.

The dancers, some as young as age 9, executed choreography with precision, often working in close proximity to each other.

The two-hour program began with an excerpt from Cuatto's Dawn Songs, exquisitely danced by Lynne Bellinger, Sarah Poinski, Matthew Stern, Alden Taylor and Jesse Tidquist.

In brief excerpts from classical ballets La Bayadere, Paquita and Coppelia, the essence was captured by solo dancers Sarah Wagner and Rose Whitney, as well as by all of the dancers in the ensemble.

Especially delightful was Strauss Waltzes with choreography by Margaret Hannah featuring the entire corps of intermediate 1 and 2 students. Outstanding in this enchanting group were Kayla Rykiel, Kathryn Wesdyk and Ellie Dotson, who displayed poise and joy while dancing.

The assuredness and energy that the dancers displayed in moving from classical ballet to modern and contemporary performances showcased their versatility. Because they are young, many of the dancers seem to relish the more modern works. They displayed a high degree of athleticism and agility that comes from having acquired the solid ballet technique, enabling them to move on to this freer form.

The audience was treated to six versions of "Cinderella" with different spins: a reformed stepsister seeing the error of her ways, another trading slippers to bring a prince to the stepsister, and most imaginative - "Surferella," with the stepsisters and Cinderella competing for a princely magic surfboard.

The advanced dancers brought excitement to "Excalibur Excerpts" by becoming their characters - Arthur vigorously danced by Matthew Stern and Mordred powerfully danced by Alden Taylor. Rose Whitney, as Morgan, was flawless in solo and in a competitive dance complete with a spear with her partner Alden Taylor as Lancelot.

From American Ballads, I found the Blue Field Duet danced to the spiritual "Were You There?" by Tabitha Alessi and David McAlister movingly tender.

The performance that concluded the 2008 Summer Intensive program gave the audience a chance to appreciate each dancer's talents and to observe the progress they made toward becoming part of a near-professional, highly disciplined, hard-working group.

The students seemed to have fun and took pride in their accomplishments.

All of us in the audience witnessed an afternoon of exciting dance.

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