A tip of the “shapka” (Russian for “hat”) to Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s Artistic Director Nicole Kelsch for digging up old records of a ballet created in St. Petersburg during the golden age of dance. Kelsch has once again created a fresh take on an old classic with respect for Mikhail Fokine’s original choreography, yet adding her own humorous touches and good timing. Brought to life once again by the BTM’s talented dancers, “The Firebird” remains an enchanting ballet that captivated both young and old.
…a visually stunning and emotionally charged experience. The dancers’ precision and synchronicity were awe-inspiring, highlighting the immense skill and dedication of the entire company.
“The Firebird” premiered in 1910, performed at the Paris Opera by the Ballets Russes, and its popularity marked the first international success of composer Igor Stravinsky’s career. Today, it continues to be performed as a ballet and as a standalone orchestral suite. The score is familiar, at times upstaging the dancing, but always drawing the musicality from the performers.
There is so much history to absorb in this one-act, Russian fairytale ballet, and so much color in the costumes and set—reds, gold, a fiery orange tutu with matching feathers.
Over my four decades of writing reviews, I’ve watched at least a dozen productions, including an authentic Russian version in Moscow. Also memorable were performances by the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Dance Theater of Harlem—John Taras’ spectacular take with Martine Von Hamel as the Firebird. I thought of her as I watched this latest rendition with a fresh perspective and vibrant energy.
As the Firebird, principal dancer Lindsey Bell delivered a powerful performance that left a lasting impression on everyone fortunate enough to witness her on stage. Her technique and emotional depth brought the mythical creature to life in a way that was both captivating and haunting.
A late replacement for Ryan Massey (pictured on the cover of the program), Diego Sosa portrayed Prince Ivan with a remarkable sense of care and genuine emotion. His chemistry with Bell was palpable, adding depth to their characters’ relationship and making the unfolding story even more compelling. Sosa’s strong and expressive portrayal of the prince showcased his exceptional talent as a dancer and actor, creating a character for whom the audience couldn’t help but root.
The choreography, reimagined by Kelsh, blended classical ballet with contemporary elements, creating a visually stunning and emotionally charged experience. The dancers’ precision and synchronicity were awe-inspiring, highlighting the immense skill and dedication of the entire company.
The production’s visual elements, including the elaborate costumes and set design, further enhanced the magical atmosphere of the performance. The attention to detail and creativity in the production design added depth to the storytelling, immersing the audience in the enchanting world of the Firebird.
The Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s re-staging of “Firebird” was a testament to the enduring power of classical ballet and its ability to transcend time and captivate audiences across generations. The passion of the dancers, combined with Nicole Kelsh’s innovative vision, breathed new life into this timeless classic. Bravo to the entire cast and crew for delivering a performance that will be remembered and cherished by ballet enthusiasts for years to come.
The Sunday afternoon program opened with a retrospective to the three directors of BTM. Edward Stewart’s “Sapphire Romance,” is a gem, indeed. Whoever re-staged this work deserves praise for keeping Eddie’s vision of beauty and romance, while honing in on the lyrical choreography.
“Toujour Amour,” also by Stewart, featured one of my favorite BTM’s ballerinas, principal Lauren Martinez, a zesty dancer with a lovely smile. “Longings” continued his romantic themes, set to a gorgeous score by Jules Massenet. ”Italian Symphonette,” was a crowd pleaser, choreographed by Dianna Cuatto, and featuring the Corps de Ballet—another treat for balletomanes.
“The Firebird” was performed on October 13- 15, 2023 by the Ballet Theatre of Maryland at Maryland Hall, 801 Chase St, Annapolis, MD 21401. Next up will be a combined concert with Full Circle Dance Company in “We Walk in Moonlight: A Collaboration of Movement, Myth, and Mystery” on Saturday, October 28, 2023 at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts in Owings Mills. In November, “The Nutcracker” abounds. BTM performs the holiday ballet on November 25, 2023 at Coppermine Pantherplex and returns home to Maryland Hall on December 9-17, 2023. For more information and tickets, go online.