Ballet Theatre of Maryland continues to stretch its legs across the state

For The Baltimore Sun

Ballet Theatre of Maryland is poised this month to open its 38th season at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts with an appropriate title for the Halloween season: "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

This season will see the troupe welcome new challenges by expanding its frontiers in Baltimore while honoring commitments and partnerships with locations in Ocean City, Garrett County, Talbot County, Bowie and Annapolis.

Artistic Director Dianna Cuatto is in her 14th season presiding over Maryland's premier professional dance company, and says her goal continues to be: "Engaging our audiences with intrigue, passion, humor and drama through traditional and innovative theatrical dance."

The new season will present favorite classics choreographed by Cuatto along with a premiere of her "Little Mermaid" ballet, as well as the return of perennial holiday favorite "The Nutcracker" in December. The season will again close with 'Innovations' exploring a variety of emotions and themes through classical to contemporary works.

First on the agenda for a run Oct. 21-23 at Maryland Hall (801 Chase St., Annapolis) is "Sleepy Hollow."

This show is an updated revival of Cuatto's original work that premiered in the 1990s to tell Washington Irving's ghost story. The show is filled with characters including schoolteacher Ichabod Crane, who challenges Brom Bones for the attention of lovely Katrina Van Tassel.

"Everyone loves a ghostly, spooky tale," Cuatto said, "and the spookiest to appear is the Headless Horseman."

Featured dancers are Lynne Bellinger and Sarah Gilliam in the role of flirtatious compassionate Katrina, brothers Alden and Calder Taylor as intelligent but bumbling Ichabod Crane, with Alexander Collen and Diego Sosa sharing the Brom Bones' role.

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21; 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23.

Cuatto suggested that those attending the Sunday matinee come dressed in Halloween costumes, and she invites ticket holders to enjoy a Sleepy Hollow Spookfest event one hour before this performance.

After "Sleepy Hollow," a little traveling music is in order, as the troupe will perform Cuatto's "Sleeping Beauty" in shows at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Convention Center in Ocean City.

Then the whimsical, magical "The Nutcracker arrives at Maryland Hall for the weekends of Dec. 10 and 17, with shows at 7 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Sundays. Free Sugar Plum parties will be held an hour before each Sunday matinee.

Audiences should look for brand-new sets made for this Ballet Theatre production.

Subscribers and audience members can also catch "The Nutcracker" at Bowie Center for the Performing Arts (15300 Annapolis Road) during the Thanksgiving weekend, with shows Nov. 26 and 27. In addition, two "Nutcracker" performances with additional choreography and live music by Concert Artists of Baltimore will be presented Dec. 3 and 4 at the Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric in Baltimore.

In the new year, the weekend of Feb. 24-26 brings Ballet Theatre's world premiere of Hans Christian Andersen's undersea adventure "The Little Mermaid," choreographed by Cuatto to the music of Debussy and Ravel.

Tickets to the 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, performance gain audiences free admission to an Under the Sea Festival Party one hour before the performance.

Ballet Theatre brings its tribute to Camelot, "Excalibur: The Sword in the Stone," to the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 19. The show, danced to Maggie Sansone's original score and played live by her with musicians' ensemble, will also be presented at 7 p.m. April 1 as the second offering of Ballet Theatre's first season as resident company at The Lyric.

Can't wait? For those who want a sneak peek at "Excalibur," a glimpse can be caught at "Excalibur In a Nutshell" on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 3 p.m. at Walters Art Gallery as part of Medieval Family Day.

The Maryland Hall season closes the weekend of April 21-23 with "Innovations," a show that promises to engage audiences with "a potpourri of short pieces from classical to dramatic to contemporary." Included will be Petipa's traditional 'Don Quixote Pas de Deux," the passionate "Tango Dramatico," a romantic pas de six to Borodin's "Nocturne," and a new work by New York composer Kevin Keller. Former principal dancer Meagan Helman also returns to present a new work.

A Grand Finale Party immediately follows the matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 23.

Cuatto said that among the challenges in mounting this season's schedule has been a series of technical problems patrons have encountered ordering season subscriptions at Maryland Hall. She said this past week that technical glitches have been resolved, and patrons can go to marylandhall.org or call the box office at 410-280-5640 to order.

Information and links are also available at balletmaryland.org.

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