Earth, wind, fire, and water…all the elements were there in the Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s online debut of “Momentum” from Prince George’s Community College’s tech-savvy performance center. The dancers stomped, the dancers soared, the dancers sizzled, and the dancers flowed as naturally as a stream tumbling downhill. Add to that, the red, white and blue patriotic flourish, and an obvious appreciation of just how glad the dancers were to be on a stage again.
Ballet Theatre of Maryland opens its spring season with a sizzling performance.
Maryland’s premier company, BTM is known for the diversity of its repertoire and the joyousness of its dancing. Last Saturday’s program brought together neoclassical ballets (with a hint of George Balanchine touches, loved the full ensemble leaping and turning and ending in a salute) plus a modern take on tribal rites, and a glimpse of the genius from the young dancers who presented their choreography.
The PGCC livestream was the only opportunity to catch BTM’s popular ballets, “American Ballads” and “Shades of Blue,” by Director Emeritus Dianna Cuatto. Her “Shades” ballet is liquid sculpture chiseled by Stacie Johnson-Leske’s lights and powered by the gorgeous music of Camille Saint-Saens, especially the violin concertos.
“American Ballads,” set to familiar patriotic folk tunes, has one tapping a foot or bobbing a head back and forth. The ballerinas, dressed in flaming red, front and center on pointe, frame one ballerina lifting her leg and turning at the same time. Wow! She reminds one of Merrill Ashley of the New York City Ballet in a finale of sparkling red, white and blue.
Cuatto’s “Shades of Blue” offers a quieter look at the duets and ensemble dancing. It was a chance to see dancer/choreographer Isaac Martinez as a sensitive partner to Sarah Jung in “Trust.” Emily Brennan and Alexander Collen were especially lovely in “Devotion” while Collen returned with Lindsey Bell for “Introspection.” “Victoria Siracusa and Richard Link embraced in “Tranquility,” yet another Pas de Deux to savor, while “Communion” brought together the ensemble in grand style.
With more a modern bent, soft shoes, and a comfy sweater covering the ballerinas, “When We” was mesmerizing online and should be even more so at the upcoming in-person concert. The ceremonial piece transforms the dancers into a community reminiscent of the unity in an indigenous tribe. With a constant backbeat and clicking tic-doc sounds from the 24 dancers, ritualism is a reminder that dance can be more fundamental and less ephemeral —more substance than fluff. A surprise at every turn, a monologue spoken in Spanish, some whistling and dozens of difficult lifts done with ease, this dance delivers.
As the closer, “Mudita” brings to the stage the energy and wit a la Paul Taylor, the late, great choreographer who influenced so many dance makers. Choreographed by Lindsey Bell, with equally lively music by Antonio Vivaldi, it might have been the audience favorite, if there had been a live audience. Using classical ballet steps, pirouettes and unique porte de bras, Bell’s work never falters from the first flying leap to a grand finish. It’s a show-off dance for both male and female dancers. The bright orange tights for the guys and shaded colors for the ballerinas are delightful, though I wish there was credit for the costume designer.
Note soloists Cindy Case in “Red Stripes” of “American Ballads,” Lauren Martinez and Lelan Lewis in “White Stripes,” and the duet by Karissa Kralik and Richard Link in “Blue Field.” The trio Caroline Anderson, Cassandra Hope and Clara Molina also caught me eye, as did Hannah Hanson and Marjorie O’Hearne. One unnamed masked strawberry blonde ballerina stood out in the “Mudita” finale. Kudos, too, to the film and tech crew, especially Stacie Johnson-Leske who lit all four dances.
For the live, outdoor performances in Annapolis, Isaac Martinez and Lindsey Bell will showcase their new works. A new piece by former company dancer Meagan Helman and another by Marinna Kus are on the bill. Highlights include the North American premiere of Pavlo Virsky’s “Podolyanychka,” a must see for balletomanes.
Running Time: Two hours with no intermission, streaming.
Artistic Director Nicole Kelsch presents “Momentum” Friday, April 30 and Saturday, May 1, at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 800 Chase Street, Annapolis, MD. Audience members may purchase tickets for in-person, socially distanced seating. For tickets and more information, call the Box Office at 410-280-5640 or visit here