Armed with a degree in English Literature, the Artistic Director of the Ballet Theatre of Maryland, Dianna Cuatto wrote the libretto for an original ballet called Excalibur. Add to that period and original compositions by Maggie Sansone, Dianna Cuatto’s choreography, creative sets, lights, and costumes, and a large cast of trained dancers, and you have a fresh, whimsical retelling of the Arthurian legends.
First performed in 2006, Excalibur garnered Diana Cuatto with an individual Artist Award. And in a world filled with ballet standards such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, she is to be commended for her vision of bringing new works to the stage.
This past weekend, the Ballet Theatre of Maryland performed Excalibur to an appreciative crowed at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis, Maryland. In case you missed it in Annapolis, on Sunday November 1st, The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown, MD will be hosting a special performance at 3 PM.
…a fresh, whimsical retelling of the Arthurian legends….The dancers are as sharp as the swords…
This dramatic telling of the story includes the character Vivianne, Lady of the Lake (Lynne Bellinger/Sarah Gilliam) and High Priestess of Avalon, who is the keeper of Excalibur, the mighty sword of Truth and Light. Her father, the Druid Wizard Merlin (Mark McCormack), helps place Excalibur in a stone altar for safekeeping until Arthur (Calder Taylor), the one true King of Britain, is old enough to claim it for his own, thus fulfilling his destiny. While Arthur is being schooled by Merlin with books, magic, and the sword, his half-sister Morgan (Jillian Cyr/Emily Brennan) is being trained by Vivianne to become a Priestess.
Their lives seem to be set in stone, but forbidden romance, quests for power, and jealously, all play out in a fight to the finish with a story that is all about good versus evil.
The story would not be complete without Lancelot (Alexander Collen), Guinevere (Nicole Kelsch/Gaia Rappaport), King Lot (Diego Sosa), and Mordred (Alden Taylor).
To the credit of Dianna Cuatto, the musicians, designers, and the cast, there is never a dull moment. The dancers are as sharp as the swords while the beat of the drum keeps the hearts pounding.
Dancers dressed as the Ravens, Shades of the Forest, and Gypsies, were all a part of my favorite scenes in the ballet. The energy put into their performance really grabbed my attention, drawing me even more into the story.
When the live musicians played, it really added to the magic of theatre. The musicians include Maggie Sansone (hammered dulcimer), Andrea Hoag (fiddle), Paul Oorts (guitar, musette accordion), and Matthew Bell (bodhran, percussion).
The live music alternated with a recorded sound-track. I must say that it was odd watching the musicians sit and watch the ballet while recorded music was playing. The original music compositions are most effective during happier, jovial moments within the story. There are times where the music didn’t seem to fit the action. During some of the sword fights the music was too matter of fact instead of the intense sounds of a dramatic fight to the finish. However, the sword fights that only included the live drum, brought out the dramatic tension that I was seeking.
Set in stylistic Medieval, Classical and Contemporary dance form, Choreographer Dianna Cuatto did a fine job at telling her story through the dances. The vision of watching the wedding celebration, the Ravens, and the March of the Knights are moments I won’t soon forget.
Her attention to the importance of the swords and Spear of the Celts is evident. Moments with dancers respecting the Spear of the Celts or longing to just touch Excalibur are played out with thoughtful emotion. The choreography incorporated dancers holding onto swords and maneuvering with it in creative ways. While the incorporation of the swords with dances was appropriate, the gimmick was used in too many of the scenes to be special. With that said, each time the gimmick was used, it was performed in a different, and sometimes clever way.
Overall, the Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s production of Excalibur is an enjoyable evening at the theatre. Dianna Cuatto took a risk by developing a new work. The dancers, as well as the audience, can be thankful for the opportunity to experience something new, original, and very special.
Running Time: Approx. 2 and a half hours plus one fifteen minute intermission.
Excalibur by the Ballet Theatre of Maryland will have an encore presentation, Sunday November 1st, The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown, MD will be hosting a special performance at 3 PM. For tickets, visit online.