At midseason, the Ballet Theatre of Maryland is a cohesive new company with 24-year-old roots that is poised to reveal its image reflecting the vision of artistic director Dianna Cuatto.
Cuatto describes the Feb. 21 and 22 performances as a turning point for the company, offering "different dance forms that provide a stretch in a show that has a lot of passion, energy and form, and great music to appeal to all age groups, from teen-agers to classical aficionados."
Popular local composer-performer Dave Glaser will play guitar between ballets.
Through her concern and nurturing attitude, Cuatto has established a strong rapport with her dancers.
"Her demands of us are like any artistic director's, but there is such a giving quality to what she does for her dancers that makes her concerns palpable," said ballet master Blake Beardsley. "She's incredibly strong, really fierce and has no problem hopping right into partnering, jumping up on a boy's shoulders."
Dancer Anmarie B. Touloumis, a soloist with Ballet Theatre of Maryland since 1994, said Cuatto is "a very nurturing and spiritual person, very empathetic, who takes into consideration where dancers are. Artistically, this company is brand new, like when I first came in 1994, right out of college."
"Dianna takes time to mold and shape us to make us better dancers," Touloumis said. "Although last season was emotionally challenging, this one is a turning point presenting us with different dance forms that require a stretch."
Cuatto describes her program Feb. 21 and 22 as featuring dance in international flavors, taking many forms and stretching the art of ballet.
"We need to train in classics, but we have to stretch the form," she said. "This program shows the versatility of my talented young dancers and allows us to demonstrate to younger audiences how ballet relates to different types of music."
The program will feature a Celtic ballet that the ballet company describes as "where Riverdance meets classical dance." The Celtic ballet was premiered to thousands on First Night, the annual Annapolis New Year's event.
The 3x3xThirdStream ballet juxtaposes classical jazz with swing, tap and blues. Based on Henri Matisse's cutout book Jazz, the piece shows the changing mood of the artist with "Jazz in Primary Colors," "Jazz in Shades of Blue" and "Jazz in Black and White."
No longer able to paint in his later years, Matisse traded his brush for scissors to create cutout forms that he placed against a wall. Because the artist placed them on a wall, Cuatto says she feels she can move these figures around.
Latin Romance uses the "nuevo tango" music of Astor Piazzolla, melding folklore with contemporary tension. Sectioned into "Fever," "Melancholia," "Seduction," "Oblivion" and "Tangue Dia," the tango will be danced by three men and a woman, and later three women and a man, expressing the emotions of the dance. Cuatto will rotate dancers in alternate roles.
Ticket prices range from $33 to $48, with discounts for students, senior citizens and children younger than age 12. Reservations: Maryland Hall box office, 410-263-5544, or order at www.marylandhall.org.
Stephen Sondheim's contemporary fairy tale musical Into the Woods opens tomorrow at the Chesapeake Arts Center and continues weekends through Feb. 28. Tickets are $12 and $15. Reservations: 410-636- 6597.