Rebecca “Becca” Friedman has walked the steps of so many visionary dancers before her. From her childhood gracing the Howard County stages as the Sugarplum Fairy to her contemporary dancing at Goucher College to her own company where she brings her decidedly elegant style to the Charm City Ballet.
Whatever that unique quality is that makes one performer stand out above the others, Becca has it, and has made audiences sit back and pay attention. Together with her sweetheart partner, Peter Commander, the couple dance, teach, and direct together.
Five years ago, they decided to offer Maryland audiences an alternative to the “Nutcracker” overload in our area. Welcome to the 5th annual Charm City Ballet (CCB) version of “A Christmas Carol,” seen earlier this afternoon at the Gordon Center for the Performing Arts.
“In our process of forming a new ballet company, we decided that we needed a new story to tell during the Christmas season,” Friedman explained during a break in a Sunday rehearsal at her Baltimore County studio.
“Since Pete and I have a long history of ‘The Nutcracker,’ we decided that the Charles Dickens tale was a worthy alternative.” And what a suite treat Becca and Pete have given us!
CCB is their “baby” and its 5th production of “A Christmas Carol” is special in many ways. Spencer Shanahan, as Belle, celebrates her 5th anniversary with the company. Her love for dancing began at a very young age, and today, she is the heart of this production.
In a gorgeous sweep across the stage, Shanahan (dressed in lavender) falls into her partner’s arms without hesitation. Special this season is the best hoedown this side of the Mississippi. And, course, we have Becca leadling the little ones across the stage – a proud moment, indeed.
For Rebecca Friedman, it all started in Columbia, where she began dancing under the tutelage of Kathi Ferguson at the Howard County Ballet. Today the 30ish dancer possess the kind of lithe body that make any choreographer’s heart beat a little faster.
At Goucher she was in both ballet and modern programs, where she met and danced with Pete. In their latest endeavor, a community of dancers, people of all ages and abilities, perform in a high quality version of “A Christmas Carol.”
This rendition of the classic tale of grumpy Scrooge and his three ghosts – past, present and future – will delight both young and old. The two-act production blends classical ballet with contemporary movements – and, of course, mime and theatrical influence when needed.
Becca and Pete created the dances, and while most of the movement is dance, everyone on stage has a character. Though many of the dancers wouldn’t consider themselves actors, they put a lot of emphasis on character work.
For me, the special moment in the ballet arrived in the first act when Pete and Becca, as beggars, performed a heart wrenching pas de deux. It’s a small two-minute duet, but the memory lasts long after the curtain goes down.
Rick Southerland plays Scrooge as a curmudgeon (but with heart, of course, in the finale). His mime, especially facial expression, carries the story forward.
Olivia Miller is adorable as Tiny Tim, and Sage Chng-Lim caught our attention with his superb dance technique and cute smile. A tip of the hat to the dancing guests at the parties – terrific choreography for such a large cast – and to the ghosts, especially the tall, haunting Natalie Fitch who gave us all a scare.
“The ballet has moments that will touch the audience on a very deep level, and then it has scenes like Fezzwig’s party that is happy and carefree, so the show has a nice mix of choreography and feel,” said Pete after the concert.
The music in the ballet includes a mix of some classical, blue grass, and contemporary scores. There was musicality and a nice flow throughout the ballet. I particularly loved the punch that was added to the step, a good sign that they knew what they were doing.
Take the kids to this show. It’s really good.
Running Time: Two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
For more information and tickets, click here.