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Ballet Theatre of Maryland on its toes to bring patrons to their feet

By Mary Johnson, For The Baltimore Sun

6:12 PM EDT, September 12, 2013

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Dianna Cuatto, artistic director of the Ballet Theatre of Maryland, describes the troupe's forthcoming season as one she hopes will bring "the versatility, depth, energy and passion of over 30 professional dancers alive on stage."

Under Cuatto, the state's premier professional ballet company is promising to take its audience on a journey "exploring the edges and dimensions of contemporary dance."

True to its mission, that journey will also carry performances to several Maryland locations. Ballet Theatre will present four main productions at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts during its 2013-2014 season, with additional performances at Bowie Center for the Performing Arts.

In addition, the troupe will make its Modell-Lyric Theatre debut in March as the Baltimore venue offers its first official season of dance — along with the Ballet Theatre of Maryland, the theater will welcome performances by the Joffrey Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Additional destinations include the Mar-Va Theatre in Pocomoke City to present "Pirates of the Chesapeake" and to Heritage Harbor retirement community in Annapolis to present excerpts from "Swan Lake" and other fare. Other touring engagements and outreach or educational performances will be offered to public and private schools and to businesses.

The Annapolis season begins informally Sunday, Sept. 22, as the troupe hosts an oyster roast fundraiser from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the home of theater trustee Debbie Porter. This casual event will include hors d'oeuvres, music by Dan Haas, paintings by Annapolis artist Laura Higgins Palmer, a raffle and a chance to visit with Ballet Theatre performers. Cost is $35 per person or $60 per couple. Call 410-263-8389 for information.

Continuing Ballet Theatre's collaboration with the city of Bowie and the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts, Cuatto has scheduled a performance of "The Dancing Princesses" for 7 p.m. Oct. 5. Ticket purchased before the performance include free admission to a Princess Party at 6 p.m., where kids can dress as their favorite fairy tale characters.

The company's Maryland Hall season begins Oct. 18, with "Beauty and the Beast" at 7:30 p.m. Performances are also scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 19 and 2 p.m. Oct. 20. Meagan Helman stars as Beauty and Calder Taylor will portray the Beast.

Cuatto looks forward to "transforming what has always been my favorite fairy tale with themes and values that continue to resonate with all of us. Meagan Helman captures the real beauty and intelligence of her character with a selfless abandon that I treasure."

The season opener includes a party at 6:30 p.m. before the Friday show, and a Princess Tea Party on Sunday, an hour before the performance.

In December, "The Nutcracker" will delight audiences of all ages who enjoy Clara's adventures with her beloved Nutcracker escort in the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets.

Two performances of "The Nutcracker" are scheduled in Bowie, at 7 p.m. Dec. 7 and 3 p.m. Dec. 8.

"Nutcracker" performances will be held at Maryland Hall at 7 p.m. Dec. 14 and 21; and at 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Dec. 15 and 22. Ticket holders at the Sunday matinee performances will be treated to a free Sugar Plum Party with a visit from Santa Claus as well as with Clara and her friends an hour before each show.

At 7 p.m. Feb. 8 in Bowie, "Pirates of the Chesapeake," a comedy based on the first documented acts of piracy on the Chesapeake Bay, will be performed. At 6 p.m., kids can dress as pirates and attend the free party.

Also in February, Cuatto premieres her staging of "Swan Lake," infusing the classic with her own flair for drama, passion and style. Nicole Kelsch is slated to dance the dual roles of Odette/Odile and Django Alegretti is the prince who defies the sorcerer, to be played by Calder Taylor. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21, 7 p.m. Feb. 22 and 2 p.m. Feb. 23.

The troupe's Maryland Hall season concludes with the "Director's Choice" show, featuring contemporary American works including premieres by Helman and Cuatto. "Rites of Passage," a work that previewed last year, will premiere in full with music by Al Petteway and Amy White. A piece titled "Collage" will also be presented on this program.

"Director's Choice" will performed at 7:30 p.m. April 11, 7 p.m. April 12 and 2 p.m. April 13.

And scheduled for April 26 at 7 p.m. in Bowie is Cuatto's "Edges and Dimensions of Contemporary Dance," exploring innovative contemporary American dance.

Season subscriptions to the troupe's performances at Maryland Hall, 801 Chase St., Annapolis, are available through October. Subscriptions and single tickets for the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts, 15200 Annapolis Road, Bowie, are available by calling the office at 410-263-8289, or by emailing btmmgr@balletmaryland.org. For details, go to http://www.balletmaryland.org.