Ballet troupe kicks off season in fine form


If the Maryland Ballet's auspicious opening this weekend at the Baltimore Museum of Art is an indication of what is in store for area ballet fans, they will have a season to savor. The ballet is brighter and lighter than ever, and several dancers -- Nancy Street, Jeanie McCaghren, Tisha Ford and Yvonne Racz -- are personable, technically astute and deserve close watching.

The program celebrated the opening of the troupe's fifth season, and two-thirds of the dances were nostalgic looks at works that artistic director Phillip Carman created for his company. The opening work, "Siebentanz," was a re-creation of the first dance performed by the company in Baltimore. While the semi-classical dance with its symmetrical staging is perfectly serviceable for displaying and introducing the dancers (four women and three men), it is not one of Mr. Carman's more memorable works. But in a program that gives the company a historical perspective, "Siebentanz" demonstrated just how far this company has come -- both choreographically and technically.

The five excerpts from Mr. Carman's repertoire displayed the choreographer's eclectic and wide-ranging style. Highlights included "I Got Rhythm," danced with saucy wit by Jeanie McCaghren; "Double Helix" with its complicated and intricate lifts wonderfully performed by Ms. Street and Bradley Parquette; "The Awakening," beautifully interpreted by Jeanne Leporati and John Thomas Bell; and "Vivaldi Concerti," impressively danced by Cynthia Berns-hausen, Ms. McCaghren, Ms. Racz and Anna Sides.

The duet from "When We Two Parted," performed by Elizabeth Morsches and Hilary Wright, unfortunately, had problems. For the first half of the work, the couple was lost in the music. At one point, it looked as if they double-timed their actions in order to catch up with flutist James Lyman.

Mr. Carman's new dance "Night Music" closed the program. It is a nicely crafted, plotless dance suite with a classical demeanor set to Mozart's familiar "Eine Kline Nachtmusik." Set in five sections and performed underneath a crystal chandelier and red drapery, three principal couples and a chorus of six women actively capture the joyous thrust of Mozart's music.

The company's artistic associate Michelle Lucci turned in a superb performance with her controlled abandonment and highly developed sense of dramatic timing and musical instinct. On the whole, "Night Music" was well danced with the company giving a lively, pleasant and attractive performance.

Mr. Carman has smoothed out a lot of the troupe's technical disparity, and this year's company holds the promise of an interesting and satisfying season.

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