When founding director Edward Stewart and the board changed the name of Ballet Theatre of Annapolis to Ballet Theatre of Maryland in 2001, they envisioned a professional company of national renown that would "represent and service the whole state," said artistic director Dianna Cuatto. This year the group is "taking steps to fulfill that vision" by creating partnerships across the state.
Maryland's premier professional ballet company and dance school starts its 31st season with plans to perform in venues outside Annapolis and conduct classes beyond Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.
Ballet Theatre of Maryland received a grant from the city of Bowie launching a joint effort that will include performances at Bowie Senior Center, educational opportunities and master classes for Bowie High School students. It will conclude with a debut performance of "Pirates of the Chesapeake" on April 17 at the 800-seat Bowie Center for the Performing Arts.
"Our goal is to perform in a single season in four or five different areas of the state," Cuatto said, "and launch satellite schools to service those local areas."
After occasional performances in Baltimore in past seasons, this year BTM will participate in the 200th celebration of Edgar Allan Poe's birthday by presenting "Specters, Phantoms and Poe" in October. The performances will be held at Baltimore-area schools in partnership with the Baltimore City Historical Society.
For the past three years, BTM has performed for the library system in Ocean City, and in February it will present two performances of "Beauty and the Beast" in the town's main theater.
BTM's 13 teachers in classical and contemporary dance will be involved this season in expanding classes to satellite schools in Easton at the Academy Art Museum and in Brooklyn Park at Chesapeake Arts Center. It will offer a range of dance classes for students of all ages and abilities.
"Both Easton and CAC are proving to be wonderful partners," said Cuatto. "Although Easton is further along with their program, CAC is committed to building a quality dance education program with us."
BTM's 2009-2010 performance season opens with "Beauty and the Beast" on Oct. 24 and 25 at Maryland Hall, with a special Princess Party for children and their families after the Sunday performance. Filled with magic, humor and romance, this favorite fairy tale was brought to life at a rehearsal recently by lead dancers Meagan Helman as Beauty and Calder Taylor as the Beast.
"Creating this role and connecting with the audience reminds me of why I started in dance," said Helman.
Cuatto said she is putting the final touches on the score, which has taken her eight months to put together from Edvard Grieg's music.
On Dec. 12, 13 and 20, "The Nutcracker" comes to Maryland Hall with a special "Mystery Nutcracker" on Dec. 19 in partnership with the Chesapeake Symphony Youth Orchestra. Sunday performances will include the popular Sugar Plum Fairy parties.
BTM returns to its original home at St. John's College Francis Scott Key Auditorium on Feb. 6 and 7 for two performances of "An American Southwest Carmen."
"Before Maryland Hall was founded as a support for resident companies, Ballet Theatre of Annapolis performed at St. John's College," said Cuatto. "This theater has fine stage facilities, and it has Tommy Light, the best designer in the Annapolis area, who will design the lighting for 'An American Southwest Carmen.' This is one of my personal favorites because it has everything from flamenco to classical and is a real tour de force for the female dancer."
"Director's Choice" will include a program of classical and contemporary ballet, a world premiere by choreographer Helman and two world premieres choreographed by Cuatto on April 10 and 11 at Maryland Hall.
If you go
Tickets are $10 to $20 for "Pirates of the Chesapeake," April 17 at Bowie Center for the Performing Arts. Subscriptions are available for the three-performance series of "Beauty and the Beast," "An American Carmen" and "Director's Choice." Prices are $106 for adults, $87 for seniors, $54 for students (ages 11 and older with valid ID) and $40 for children 10 and younger. For the four-performance series that includes "Nutcracker," prices are $141 for adults, $120 for seniors, $72 for students and $54 for children. Call Ballet Theatre of Maryland at 410-263-8289 to subscribe or for a season brochure.