Earth, wind, fire and water…all the elements were there in the Ballet Theater of Maryland’s online premiere of “Momentum” from Prince George’s Community College’s tech-savvy performance center. Dancers stomped, dancers soared, dancers sizzled, and dancers flowed as naturally as a stream rushing down a slope. Add to that the patriotic red, white and blue flourish and an obvious appreciation for the dancers’ joy to be on stage again.
The Ballet Theater of Maryland opens its spring season with a steamy show.
Maryland’s premier company, BTM is known for the diversity of its repertoire and the joy of its dancing. Last Saturday’s program brought together neoclassical ballets (with a touch of George Balanchine, I loved the full set jumping and spinning and ending with a bow) as well as a modern take on tribal rites and insight into the genius of 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,” from director emeritus Dianna Cuatto. Her ballet “Shades” is a liquid sculpture chiselled by the lights of Stacie Johnson-Leske and propelled by the magnificent music of Camille Saint-Saens, in particular the violin concertos.
“American Ballads,” set to familiar patriotic folk tunes, has your feet tapping or your head bobbing back and forth. The ballerinas, dressed in flamboyant red, front and center on pointe, frame a ballerina raising her leg and turning at the same time. wow! It recalls Merrill Ashley of New York City Ballet in a finale of sparkling red, white and blue.
Cuatto’s “Shades of Blue” offers a calmer look at duets and ensemble dancing. It was an opportunity to see dancer/choreographer Isaac Martinez as a sensitive partner of Sarah Jung in “Trust”. Emily Brennan and Alexander Collen were particularly adorable in “Devotion” while Collen returned with Lindsey Bell for “Introspection.” “Victoria Siracusa and Richard Link embraced in ‘Tranquility’, another Pas de Deux to savor, while ‘Communion’ brought the ensemble together in style.
With a more modern curvature, soft shoes, and a comfy sweater covering the ballerinas, “When We” was mesmerizing online and should be even more so at the next live concert. The ceremonial piece transforms the dancers into a community reminiscent of the unity of an indigenous tribe. With a constant backbeat and clanking tic-doc sounds from the 24 dancers, the ritualism is a reminder that dance can be more fundamental and less fleeting – more substance than fluff. A surprise at every turn, a monologue spoken in Spanish, a few whistles and dozens of difficult lifts performed with ease, this dance delivers.
Closely related, “Mudita” brings to the stage the energy and spirit a la Paul Taylor, the late great choreographer who influenced so many dance creators. Choreographed by Lindsey Bell, with equally catchy music by Antonio Vivaldi, it might have been an audience favourite, had there been a live audience. Using classic ballet steps, pirouettes and unique arm gates, Bell’s work never wavers from the first leap in the air to a great finish. It is a parade dance for both male and female dancers. The bright orange tights for the guys and the shaded colors for the ballerinas are lovely, although I wish there was a credit for the costume designer.
Note soloists Cindy Case in “Red Stripes” from “American Ballads”, Lauren Martinez and Lelan Lewis in “White Stripes” and the duo of Karissa Kralik and Richard Link in “Blue Field”. The trio Caroline Anderson, Cassandra Hope and Clara Molina also caught my eye, as did Hannah Hanson and Marjorie O’Hearne. An unnamed masked strawberry blonde ballerina stood out in the “Mudita” finale. Kudos also to the film and tech crew, especially Stacie Johnson-Leske who lit up the four dances.
For live, outdoor performances in Annapolis, Isaac Martinez and Lindsey Bell will present 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 “Podolyanychka” by Pavlo Virsky, a must for balletomanes.
Duration: Two hours without intermission, in streaming.