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Ambition, choreography out of step


Edward Stewart, artistic director of the Ballet Theatre of Annapolis, is decidedly ambitious. Unfortunately, Mr. Stewart's choreographic ambition far exceeded his dramatic grasp. How else can one explain the disappointing choreography that Mr. Stewart's dancers bravely struggled through this weekend at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis?

Fortunately, BTA's performance was bolstered by the guest appearance of local pianist and composer Stefan Scaggiari, whose considerable musical talents and performance savvy warmly charmed the audience.

"Window Shopping," to an original score by Mr. Scaggiari, opened the evening. Leslie Bradley, Karla Brooks and Ethel Leslie whimsically strutted, posed and paraded about the stage with Jeffrey Bychowski and David Miller. The work wanted desperately to be a jazz ballet, but neither the movements nor the dancers had any clue how to do it. Additionally, the dance was marred by costumes that were so distracting and unflattering one hoped they were all shopping for new clothes.

The Grand Pas De Deux from "The Bluebird" by Marius Petipa followed. Ex-Bolshoi dancer Vyacheslav Mesropov was obviously in a different league from his partner, Sandra Prehoda. Mr.

Mesropov was an engaging and competent dancer whose smooth performance facilitated that of his partner.

George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" was Mr. Stewart's inspiration, but despite the glorious Gershwin music, brilliantly played by Mr. Scaggiari, the dance never soared. The main problem is that Mr. Stewart wants to do two things at once. On one hand, he wants to pay homage to the music with an abstracted ballet a la Balanchine, and on the other, he wants a character ballet that pictures fast-paced city life. The two ideas grow unchecked and eventually strangle each other.

"Catulli Carmina," a choral work by Carl Orff based on the lyrics of the Roman poet Catullus to his girlfriend, "Lesbia," provided impetus for the closing three-act ballet. The plot can be summarized as "She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me . . . But I don't care," and after watching the repetitive and academic movements performed woodenly by the dancers, the audience didn't care either.

While Mr. Stewart's choreographic ambitions fell short of reality, his past achievements are many and were noted this year by the Maryland Council for Dance, which gave him the Distinguished Service Award.

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