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Ballet Theatre's fiery finale

The Baltimore Sun

Ballet Theatre of Maryland ended its season with an interestingly varied and challenging program held together by a common thread celebrating life.

Works included guest choreographer Keith Lee's Choral Dances, celebrating spring and set to Schubert songs, and BTM director Dianna Cuatto's Episodes, a memorial tribute to Eddie Stewart, the company's founder and director for 22 years. She also chorographed a new work, The Forgotten Path, featuring the music of Rob Levit, and reworked Igor Stravinsky's The Firebird.

I attended the performance on Earth Day, so I enjoyed the timing of the first dance created by Lee, with its impressions of spring. The dancers' costumes - in an array of earth tones of gold, brown, copper and green - underscored that theme. The ensemble displayed a smooth athleticism, precise coordination and a strong sense of freedom - all reinforced by the music, the appropriately chosen Schubert's Songs for Male Chorus, recorded in German by the Robert Shaw Chamber Singers.

Cuatto's Episodes was danced to the music of Rachmaninoff, his favorite composer, and was patterned after Stewart's admired Sapphire choreography.

It captured the essence of Stewart's choreography in its beauty, romanticism and graceful sensuality, all exquisitely defined by soloists Laura Camille de Guia and Joseph Alexander Villalobos. They expressed mutual trust, deep affection and high drama, which was beautifully mirrored by two other couples who followed their lead, Alexis Decker and Calder Taylor, and Anmarie Touloumis and Brian Walker.

The Forgotten Path, a spiritual, life-affirming work that conveyed our universal life's journey, expresses the way "in unexpected moments we remember pieces of a lovely, not quite forgotten song, the wonderful setting where we heard it and those who listened with us," Cuatto said.

On Sunday Camille de Guia danced the main role of the Traveler, conveying a profound spirituality along with strength and grace. The same role was danced with distinction the night before by Jamie Skates. Both beautifully created evolving patterns that expressed life's journey. The piece contained some spectacular lifts and exuberant leaps by male members of the ballet company, including Villalobos, Walker, Taylor and Bryan Skates. A noticeable camaraderie was evident among all members of the corps.

The dance movements matched the intriguing music composed and performed by Rob Levit to create a performance that audience members could appreciate artistically and spiritually.

The Firebird also proved spectacular, most notably for the magical and regal performance by Jessica Fry, whose arms seemed like wings, beautifully fluttering, and who conveyed the bird's fear, vulnerability, curiosity and courage.

Fry was dramatic as she danced with the sword held high before presenting it to Prince Ivan, danced by Bryan Skates. Their pas de deux conveyed the Firebird's increasing trust in the prince, while the Firebird's dance with Skates as the evil Sorceress, was another high point.

Also contributing polished performances were a contingent of young dancers cast as Little Monsters. Kathryn Carlson as Princess Tsarevna with Skates' Prince Ivan provided a lovely contrast in the wedding scene, and a group of princesses beautiful in their beribboned-jewel toned costumes added to the overall effect.

This was a remarkably ambitious program that the sizable audience clearly appreciated.

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