Ballet Theatre of Annapolis' Sleeping Beauty
Posted 18 April 2000 - 07:48 PM
With the beautiful new production of the third act from The Sleeping Beauty that Ballet Theater of Annapolis presented last weekend at Maryland Hall, the company once again shows, as it did with its recent second act of Giselle, that it is possible for modest local companies to present pocket-sized versions of the classics that, in many ways, approach the quality of the grandest professional companies, and it's not always necessary for local residents to go to Washington or New York to see first-rate ballet. In fact, there were moments when it appeared that BTA might be ready to outgrow Maryland Hall's modest setting, and it's not inappropriate that the company will soon change its name to Ballet Theatre of Maryland.
This act, also known as Aurora's Wedding when it's presented as an excerpt, shows us the wedding of Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund, after he's awakened her from her hundred-year sleep with a memorable kiss. In this act, various fairytale characters come to court to pay homage to the royal couple, who themselves conclude the act by performing one of the most challenging pas de deux in classical ballet. This act contains some of Tchaikovsky's grandest music, which BTA's artistic director Edward Stewart has wisely expanded upon by including the lovely and familiar Garland Waltz from the ballet's first act.
As Aurora's Wedding is set in a royal court, the design is of paramount importance, and it was gratifying to see that BTA did not skimp and present us with the threadbare castles that sometimes mar bigger company's productions of the classics. Jane Wingard and Sid Curl sketched an effectively elegant court with their pillared backdrop, and Juliet Shore gorgeously dresssed BTA's dancers in the finest classical tradition - no rentals or hand-me-downs here! Ballets such as this are often called, sometimes condescendingly, "tutu and tiara" ballets, yet Miss Shore's stunning costumes (and Jennifer Hankins' tiaras) showed just how powerfully a properly made tutu can enhance a dancer's authority and stature, and help the women fortunate enough to wear one make the transition from ballet dancer to ballerina (the two terms are not synonymous, although they're often used that way). It was gratifying to see so many ballerinas, both American and foreign-born, last weekend. I was particularly struck by the shimmering Silver Fairy's tutu, although it seems unfair to single out a favorites - any of these creations would look just as much at home on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House or the Mariinsky as Maryland Hall's. It's unfortunate that murky lighting and occasional sound miscues marred an otherwise first-rate production.
After introducing us to the appropriately regal Charlotte McNutt and Anton Wilson as Queen and King (they have the challenging task of sitting on their thrones and drinking wine for the rest of the ballet), Stewart brings out the Lilac Fairy, danced by the tall and leggy Leslie Bradley with the right combination of haughteur and authority, who introduces the various fairyland characters who return to dance later. The short divertissment for the four Fairy Princesses (Emerald, Gold, Silver and Diamond, as danced respectively by Anmarie B. Touloumis, Amber Lynn Zecker, Jennifer Dancesia and Natasha Kiryanova), fairly glittered. A few of these women chose to dance fairy variations from the ballet's Prologue, but all were very well-danced, each bringing personality and style to their solos: Touloumis' air of sultry langour, Zecker's brightness and attack (in the finger-pointing "Violente" fairy variation from the Prologue), Dancesia's softness and strength and Kiryanova's piquancy. One of the delights of BTA's short seasons is the chance it gives us to see how much these dancers have improved over time.
Stewart's staging of the Garland Waltz, for twenty-four dancers, was a welcome interlude, and seemed not at all out of place in this wedding act. I particularly liked his use of children from BTA's school (never treating them as less than adults, here), but wished the Maryland Hall stage was just a bit bigger, so his compositions would have had more room to breathe. Amy Litwiller was both sensual and aloof as the White Cat in her flirtateous duet with the tomcattish Puss-in-Boots of Dmitry Malikov, who didn't let the occasional flurry of scratches from Miss Litwiller diminish his ardor, or his clear delight in his magnificent red boots. In the celebrated Bluebird pas de deux, Ninel Cherevko's delicate musicality and sweet phrasings were a delight, as was her clear strength and technical assurance. Jeffrey Watson performed admirably in a role for which he might not appear to have been naturally suited, drawing applause with his brilliant footwork in the profoundly difficult fluttering leaps in the duet's coda. It was hard not to feel a bit guilty at the pleasure I had in seeing Jennifer Hankins' sweet but befuddled Little Red Riding Hood in the grips of Andrey Shevaldin's frayed yet elegant Wolf, who repeatedly cornered Hankins with his huge leaps, and whose repeated rubbings of his doubtless-growling stomach left little doubt as to his intentions for the poor lost girl. No rescuing woodcutters here! Thankfully, Stewart omitted some of the ballet's drearier fairytale guests, such as Tom Thumb.
In the Grand Pas de Deux between Aurora and Prince Florimund, Zhirui Zou easily surmounted the role's technical challenges to create a beautifully realized portrayal of Aurora that compares well to such past great Auroras as Margot Fonteyn. Zou gave full weight to the many charming images of growth and authority in Marius Petipa's choreography, and where too many dancers mistake a fixed, unchanging smile for royal grandeur, Zou's Aurora was a breathing and ever-changing picture of a powerful young woman reaching her (somewhat delayed) adulthood. It almost goes without saying she has thrilling carriage of her arms, and great strength and clarity to her technique. Dmitry Tuboltsev's Prince carried Zou through the adagio's intricacies, including the showy and somewhat scary fish dives, with aplomb, and danced his solos with his usual flash and virtuosity, and somewhat more than his usual poise.
BTA's performance began with several of Stewart's own settings of fairy tales, as this was a children's program. This was not as terrifying for adults as a glimpse at the program might have indicated. Highlights were five of the company's best dancers doing a very classical divertissment dressed as pigs (and a hedgehog), a lovely romantic duet for Zou and Shevaldin, as a frog who's turned into a prince by her kiss, and Cherevko miming and dancing her way through Snow White with as much authority and poise as if she were performing the first act of Giselle. Christi Bleakly was a strong though harried Alice in Alice in Wonderland, which offered such delights as Tuboltsev's and Shevaldin's over-the-top mime as the Mad Hatter and March Hare, and, my personal favorite, three rather large and leggy chickens flapping their wings (or attempting to), to the Saint-Saens cello piece most commonly heard by dance-goers as the accompaniment to Fokine's The Dying Swan.
If you'd like to see some pictures of Miss Shore's costumes, click on this link:
[This message has been edited by Manhattnik (edited April 18, 2000).]
[This message has been edited by Manhattnik (edited April 18, 2000).]
Posted 19 April 2000 - 01:02 AM
P.S. I'm having computers nightmares. Downloaded a file with a virus. The message started with "Hey, you!" If you get one of those, ignore it; horrible stuff!
Posted 19 April 2000 - 10:17 AM
Being a Manhattan snob, I'm really not that familiar with the quality of most "regional" ballet companies (I'm ducking for cover as I use that dreaded word), let alone "civic" ones, which is what I'd considered BTA. I have, however, been quite impressed with what Stewart has been able to put together on what must be a shoestring budget. Zou and Cherevko are both fine dancers, and would look good gracing just about any company. BTA, soon to be BTM, seems ready to make the next move up the ballet-company ladder -- I hope it can manage this successfully without losing the small-town charm that has pervaded the performances I've seen.
Posted 19 April 2000 - 11:46 AM
"most BA readers would know that those "fluttery" jumps in Bluebird are brise volees. Right?"
Well, most probably do, but I for one liked the reference to fluttery jumps to get the picture and then would really also appreciate seeing the term "brise volee" right beside it.... just for the next time I see it used without the 'fluttery' part.
Posted 09 June 2005 - 09:18 PM
Manhattnik, I was wondering first, if you are still active on this site, and second, if you still attend BTM's performances and write reviews; if so, I am extrememly curious to know your opinion of the company now, especially because of everything it has been through these past few years. Now under the direction of Dianna Cuatto, in my opinion it still maintains the spirit Eddie enstilled from the beginning, but is also making big changes with its repertoire and source of dancers. I would like to know what others think, if anyone has witnessed or been a part of BTM recently.
Posted 09 June 2005 - 09:42 PM
Unfortunately, Manhattnik has not posted in over a year, but maybe you could tell us about BTM -- what they're up to these days and what's happened there over the past five years! What ballets have they been dancing lately?
Posted 09 June 2005 - 11:11 PM
Though I'd rather not go into my story, because it is quite long and could be a whole other post, I will say that after being a part time apprentice while finishing my last sememster in high school (2 years ago...weird how it seems so long...), and going away to major in dance in college this past year, I have decided to accpet the full time apprentice contract Ms. Cuatto offerend me for this year, and am so incredibly excited and happy to be dancing with BTM full time (dancing all day long everyday=beautiful!) Right now, we are about to start the summer program (which all apprentices are required to attend) and the Company season begins August 18th. I think our first ballet is Little Women, which should be interesting... if it anywhere close to being as powerful as Cuatto's The Scarlet Letter, which she set on in Spring 2004, then I know it will be fabulous. This past year she also choreographed a new Nutcracker which we will be doing again this year, after the Company performed Mr. Eddie's 20-some year old (but amazing and always inspiring even after so long) choreography for the last time the previous year. I am momentarily forgetting what is planned for the sring, though I do know we will be performing many pieces that have already been set throughout the summer and year for lecture demos and the like.
Wow so for some reason, this took a very long time to write, and I hope it makes some sense, espceially to anyone close to BTM, or anyone out there looking for a small but amazing company... I know, I know, I am VERY biased, but I credit my excitement for the upcoming year for this. I can answer questions if anyone has any, so please do ask.
Posted 10 June 2005 - 06:32 AM
Like you, most of my current ballet viewing is with regional-local companies of various size, especially Miami City Ballet and Ballet Florida. Ballet Talk, in my Opinion, benefits from learning about and encouraging dancers, choreographers, artistic directors, heads of schools, and often stunning achievements on this level. They are the foundation without which ballet's top echelon -- NYCB, ABT, POB, the Royal, the Royal Danish, and even Kirov and Bolshoi -- would quite possibly whither away.
Posted 10 June 2005 - 09:51 AM
Posted 13 February 2006 - 11:47 AM
Posted 13 February 2006 - 01:53 PM
The best we can do here is wish you both "Merde"!
Posted 13 February 2006 - 02:03 PM
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