DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 #12: ‘Memorable Dance in Baltimore and Beyond’ by Carolyn Kelemen

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There were many big, wonderful dance events in 2015, including world premieres, new renditions of the warhorse ballets, made-for-TV series (Flesh & Bone),dance documentaries, and grand dance on the big screen (the Bolshoi, among others). Nonetheless, it was those special, often quiet, dance moments that still linger into the New Year.

What follows are the 2015 dance events that provided some of my favorite moments, as well as others that fell through the cracks or just missed newspaper deadlines.

Earlier this month Charm City Ballet made its debut with a new rendition of A Christmas Carol at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The cast of 'A Christmas Carol.' Photo courtesy of Charm City Ballet.

The cast of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Photo courtesy of Charm City Ballet.

Goucher College alumni Rebecca Friedman and Peter Commander founded the company, directed the ballet, and danced a poignant pas de deux in the first act. This short duet captured not their love for each other but a joy shared by the SRO audience.

The 28-year-old ballerina, a cystic fibrosis sufferer, once again proved that art triumphs disease. She continues to amaze with her bravery and will not allow any restrictions from the illness hold her back from what she loves – dance.

Charm City Ballet will hold open auditions on Sunday, January 29th for a full-length production of Beauty and the Beast, scheduled Saturday, June 11th in Baltimore. Rehearsals will be held on Sundays at The Moving Company in Cockeysville, MD. For details, visit Facebook page, website, or call (443) 290-8806.

Misako Aoki, director of the Misako Ballet Studio in Columbia, presented one of my favorite winter concerts. Her Japanese heritage mixed with her classical training in London provides her company with an international zest and mix of cultures.

I particularly enjoyed watching Amanda Wade as a struggling crane in an ancient fairytale of a bird and its magic powers, perfect for all ages. The Misako Ballet Company presents The Undersea Palace at the Jim Rouse Theater on Saturday, February 7th. A grand opening of a second ballet studio in Howard County will take place in mid-January.

2015 could easily have been dubbed “the year of the ballerina.” Women wowed us in dance performances throughout the Baltimore-Washington corridor and beyond. Here are a few of the top picks in the female category.

Misty Copeland. Photo courtesy of her website.

Misty Copeland. Photo courtesy of her website.

Misty Copeland was promoted to American Ballet Theater Principal and her fans went crazy – TV spots, book deals, and columns in magazines and national newspapers. Her recognition proved to be a bonus to the Washington Ballet fans when Septime Webre invited her to dance the coveted role in Swan Lake. It was wonderful to see young children enjoy classical ballet…or at least her performance.

Alicia Graf Mack. Photo by Bob Morrison.

Alicia Graf Mack. Photo by Bob Morrison.

Alicia Graf Mack, who earned her top spot as with the Dance Theatre of Harlem years ago (and without the fanfare), retired from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in January. Who could forget her photo – the one in the split leap high in the air – on marquees and billboards throughout Manhattan? She is truly an amazing dancer with a smile that reaches out to all.

Look for her with her sister Daisha Graf in a program called (D)n(A) that reaches underserved dancers. Their program at the Ballet Royale in Columbia last spring brought together dozens of dancers in celebration of the art.

Jacqueline Green. Photo courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Jacqueline Green. Photo courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

And do check out Jacqueline Green, a Baltimore School for the Arts graduate, when the Ailey troupe kicks off its 2016 tour at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House February 2-7, 2016. Highlights include three DC premieres, a Revelations finale at all shows, and my choice, theSunday matinee with three classic Ailey works, Blues Suite, Night Creature, and his tribute to all women, Cry.

Off stage, she’s a stunning 5-foot-9, with incredibly long arms and legs that go on forever. When she dances, she stretches her arabesques and lengthens her high-flying leaps so she looks even taller – perhaps 7 feet from the tips of her toes to the top of her bald head.

Gutsy and original, she’s Howard County’s own Margaret “Maggie” Kudirka, “The Bald Ballerina,” as she calls herself, who earned her place on my best list with her rendition of the “Sugar Plum Princess” from The Nutcracker in Carroll County last weekend.

Maggie Kudirka. Photo by Paolo Galli.

Maggie Kudirka. Photo by Paolo Galli.

“Dance has always been my life,” said Kudirka during a break in a recent rehearsal for her “No One Can Survive Alone: A Fundraiser Concert for the Bald Ballerina” at the American Dance Institute (ADI) in Rockville, MD on Sunday, January 10, 2016, at 2:30 p.m., but after being diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, it really became my life and the only thing that made me feel like myself.”

Adrienne Canterna in 'Bad Boys of Dance.' Photo by Nikolay Krusser.

Adrienne Canterna in ‘Bad Boys of Dance.’ Photo by Nikolay Krusser.

Adrienne Canterna, chief choreographer for “Bad Boys of Dance” sizzled on stage in a Baltimore County high school a few months ago, she with her split leaps and the guys perfecting those shaggy hip-hop steps. Look for this international superstar at the ADI at Solange MacArthur Theater – 1570 East Jefferson Street, in Rockville, MD 20852. Minimum donation is $25. For tickets, contact BaldBallerina@gmail.com.

On the subject of gorgeous gals, Maki Onuki and Sona Kharatian were both standouts in the Washington Ballet’s 2015 repertory season. While Maki is delicate with the ability to float in her partner’s arms and Sona is gorgeous and sultry – you can’t keep your eyes off her when she’s dancing. Catch these high-flying ballerinas in Director’s Cut at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater on February 24-28, 2016.

Leanne Cope and Robert Fairchild in ‘An American in Paris.’ Photo by Angela Sterling.

Leanne Cope and Robert Fairchild in ‘An American in Paris.’ Photo by Angela Sterling.

Broadway welcomed dance in 2015 with Robert Fairchild a la Gene Kelly in An American in Paris at the Palace Theatre. Fiddler on the Roof’s Danny Burstein (Teyve) and Adam Danheisser (the Butcher, who grew up in Columbia, MD) perform one of the best renditions of “To Life” at the Broadway Theatre – Jerome Robbins would be pleased. While accolades continue for Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theatre (yes it is as good as they say), few seem to mention the dancing.

Andy Blankenbuehler captured the hip-hop songs, and the kids in the chorus performed these steps with power and verve. Kudos to these gypsies.

Jenny Male. Photo courtesy of Howard Community College.

Jenny Male. Photo courtesy of Howard Community College.

In Maryland Jenny Male reigns supreme as a fight specialist in dance. She directed a terrific rendition of Argonautica last semester at Howard Community College, as selected for the 2016 Kennedy Center College Theater Festival in January.

Toby’s gal-to-go-to, Ilona Kessel, re-created the beautiful choreography of Ragtime. The Dinner Theatre production will surely garner prizes at the Helen Hayes Awards.

Nestled deep in the Berkshire Mountains near Tanglewood, historic Jacob’s Pillow settlement has become a landmark in modern dance. The “Pillow” is the oldest dance festival in America, dating back to 1921 when Ted Shawn, the so-called “father of modern dance” bought the main house and the land around it.

We caught the return of Daniel Ulbrich & Stars of American Ballet at the Ted Shawn Theatre in late July.

Earlier in the evening on the outdoor stage, dancers from the West Coast delighted the audience, some picnicking in the woods. Jacobs Pillow is a treasure and should not be missed.

Suzanne Farrell. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

Suzanne Farrell. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

If the New York City Ballet is the quintessential American ballet company – energetic, athletic and intelligent – then The Suzanne Farrell Ballet is the absolute embodiment of its style. When her company opened the 2015-16-ballet season at The Kennedy Center, the spirit of her mentor, surely smiled approvingly from the wings.

With her intimate experience in Balanchine’s works, Farrell carries forth the master’s legacy via her company’s annual performances and workshops. She stands alone as a coach for the young ballerinas, especially those who are chosen to dance the roles she once did. Let’s hope she will continue this legacy.

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 #1: Special Awards.

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 #2: Best Musicals in Professional Theatres.

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 #3: Best Musicals in Community Theatres.

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 #4: Best Plays in Professional Theaters

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 #5: Best Plays in Community Theatres.

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 #6: Best Children’s/Family Productions.

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 #7: Best Performances in a Play in Community Theatres.

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 #8: Best Performances in a Play in Professional Theatres

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 #9: Best Performances in a Musical in Community Theatres.

DCMetroTheaterArts: Best of 2015 #10: Best Performances in a Musical in Professional Theatres and Special Awards.

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 #11: New York’s Ten Best of 2015 by Richard Seff.

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 #12: ‘Memorable Dance in Baltimore and Beyond’ by Carolyn Kelemen.

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 #13 in Theater in The Philadelphia Area.

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 #14: Dance Performances.

DCMetroTheaterArts’ Best of 2015 Honors Begins Tomorrow-A Look Back at the 2014 Honorees.

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DCMetroTheaterArts writers were permitted to honor productions that they saw and we did not review.

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