Ballet to offer tried and true as well as new


The Howard County Ballet is gearing up for a 2000-2001 season that promises to build on the artistic successes the company achieved in its well-received production of "Alice in Wonderland" last spring.

"That was a great step forward," says Kathi Ferguson, the choreographer in her sixth year at the helm of Howard County's premier dance ensemble. "I'm very excited about what's in store for us."

The new season will open Oct. 13, when the troupe presents highlights from "Alice" and its perennially popular production of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" at a fund-raising evening at the Howard County Arts Council in Ellicott City. No admission will be charged, but donations will be accepted.

Christmastime would be a mere shadow of its self without "The Nutcracker," so the Howard County Ballet will present Tchaikovsky's classic at Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts. Performances are scheduled for 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16, and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 17.

For these performances, the colorful, melodic score will be brought to life by a 38-piece orchestra conducted by David Zajic, a professor at the University of Maryland and a member of the Columbia Orchestra.

The dance ensemble is auditioning singers interested in joining the ballet for the effervescent choral finale to Act I.

To arrange an audition: 410-465-8233

The season will end May 26 and 27 with performances of Kathi Ferguson's realization of "The Wizard of Oz." They will be the company's first performances of the director's vivid conceptualization of the much-loved story told via the dazzling music of Hector Berlioz and Sergey Prokofiev.

"Storytelling is my strength," Ferguson says. "I try to combine the details of plot with classical steps in an attempt to create an atmosphere for the story."

"Wizard of Oz" aficionados will be interested in Ferguson's juxtaposition of the movie version with the novel by Frank L. Baum. "In our choreography," she says, "more than one good witch makes it into the story. There are some other interesting changes as well."

To sign on as a dancer for the season as a snowflake, mouse, Sugar Plum Fairy, munchkin, scarecrow or Wicked Witch: 410-465-8233.

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