Dianna Cuatto's award-winning ballet Excalibur, which premiered in 2006, is being readied for what promises to be a spectacular return to Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts later this month.
Exciting as it is to see Ballet Theatre of Maryland dancers perform at Maryland Hall, it is more dazzling up close to watch these dancers in rehearsal at BTM's studio in the basement of the Conte Building in Annapolis.
FOR THE RECORD - In a photo caption accompanying an article on the ballet Excalibur, David McAlister and his character, King Lot, were misidentified.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.
Male dancers lifted their partners high enough to appear as if the ballerinas' heads nearly touched the ceiling. Studio floor space was fully used by the dancers leaping toward one another with only inches separating them as they cut through lines of dancers with precision.
A ballet rehearsal provides an opportunity to witness dance art being created while revealing the extraordinary physical demands placed on each dancer. At last week's rehearsal, a grueling workout consisted of fight scenes for the men that would have qualified them as Hollywood stuntmen. The women met equal demands with stamina and grace.
One of Cuatto's most ambitious choreographic triumphs, Excalibur seems improved over the 2006 version, now expressing the romance and chivalry so essential in telling the Arthurian legend.
As conceived by Cuatto, the story is an exciting retelling of Camelot uniquely through the perspective of King Arthur's half-sister Morgan le Fay, whose tragic journey brings destruction and death. The forces of light are brought through wizardry, magic, sword fights, knights and princesses.
With a history of including live music within BTM's budget, Cuatto again plans to engage the talents of Maggie Sansone, a nationally acclaimed hammered dulcimer artist, in this reworked Excalibur, as she had in the original when her especially composed music lent an authentic sound.
The cast members seen dancing in various segments at rehearsal seemed well-chosen. Two brothers who are cast as enemies will dance major roles: Calder Taylor, now in his fourth season with BTM, playing King Arthur, and his younger brother, Alden Taylor, who is in his first season, dancing the role of Arthur's evil son Mordred. Their battle scene filled with swordplay was riveting.
Calder Taylor's King Arthur proved a strong and tender partner to Kathryn Carlson's Guinevere, who also projected a regal strength along with a gorgeous fluidity of movement and sensuality.
Cuatto had said she originally designed the role of Morgan le Fay with dancer Jessie Fry in mind. Fry commanded the stage when she danced the role in April 2006, and now in rehearsal it was obvious Fry could create a scene filled with strength, fury and sensuality in solo and in an intense, fearsome pas de deux with Alden Taylor's Mordred.
A ballet that appears this spectacular in rehearsal seems destined to set dance standards when it arrives at Maryland Hall for two performances, Saturday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 22, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $43 for adults, $36 for ages 65 and up, $23 for students and $18 for children 10 and under. Prices include a Maryland Hall service fee. To order, go to www.mdhallarts.org.