Maryland Ballet steps deftly


The Maryland Ballet, the city's resident company, inaugurated its new home last night, the McManus Theater at Loyola College, with an eclectic and satisfying program of four works that included the company premiere of Balanchine's "Tarantella" and two world premieres by artistic director Phillip Carman.

Both new works, "Adagio Appassionato" and "The Women's Room," use the drama of relationship as a starting point. But there the similarity ends.

"Adagio Appassionato," which means "slowly, with passion," is set to a dark and haunting score by Beethoven. Permeated with a sense of mortal frailty and danced with controlled drama by guest artist Michelle Lucci and partners John Thomas Bell and Ted Sothern, the work slowly and effectively unfolds in abstract drama that is filled with as much symbolism as a Bergman film.

The images constantly mutate from strong to weak. The vibrancy of Ms. Lucci's extension is contrasted with her fragile arms. Her line is neat, crisp; her limbs are finely drawn so that she appears sculpted in space. The men are silent figures like characters in a Japanese noh play. They serve as dramatic counterweights to Ms. Lucci.

Where "Adagio" is dark and moody, "The Women's Room" is full of bright, sassy chatter. Jointly choreographed by local modern dancer Kathy Wildberger and Mr. Carman, it evokes the kind of sentiments one might hear in a women's room.

Set to a medley of eight popular country tunes, the dance does not strictly illustrate the lyrics, but rather articulates the lyrical persuasion of the music. The style, a combination of modern and ballet sensibilities, has a flowing, circular quality, and while the lyrics may speak of "The Pain of Loving You," as the opening section is titled, the effect is transitory, as if this were just a minor setback.

Particularly effective were "I Fall to Pieces," a humorous off-balance section deftly performed by Ms. Wildberger, and "Telling Me Lies," with Cynthia Bernshausen, Tisha Ford and Jeanne Leporati.

"Tarantella" was given an engaging and energetic performance by guest artist Barry Leon and company member SuAnne Crouse.

Opening the evening was Mr. Carman's work, "Continuum," a difficult work made even more so by putting it at the start. Perhaps the company can remedy all the opening-night flaws for the balance of its performances, at 8 tonight and 4 p.m. tomorrow.

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