‘Cinderella’ at Ballet Theatre of Maryland at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric

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Entering the closing phase of this season, Maryland’s premier ballet company –Ballet Theatre of Maryland (‘BTM’)- returned to the scene of last season’s major artistic triumph in Swan Lake for a second ballet performance at Baltimore’s landmark Lyric Theatre, now the Modell Lyric Performing Arts Center. For Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s return, Artistic Director Dianna Cuatto presented BTM subscribers’ first choice favorite Cinderella as its encore performance.

Dianna Cuatto (Wicked Stepmother) with Nicole Kelsch (Cinderella ). Photo by Bud Johnson.
Dianna Cuatto (Wicked Stepmother) with Nicole Kelsch (Cinderella ). Photo by Bud Johnson.

Enchanting in February at BTM’s recently renovated home at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, the Saturday, March 28, 2015 performance on the Modell-Lyric stage was beyond BTM’s usual display of drama, athleticism, expert technique, and vigor. Here everything from professionally flown scenery rising high above the stage for instant scene changes, to quiet soundproof floors to muffle dance sounds to freshened dancers’ costumes took on magical qualities including the enhanced sound of composer Prokofiev’s masterful score.

For this ballet, Prokofiev’s intent was “to express above all the poetic love of Cinderella and the Prince” weaving their story through a variety of dance forms allowing dancers to display their art. Prokofiev’s intent was fully realized in Cuatto’s innovative choreography exploiting her dancers’ individual strengths in a number of new scenes introduced to the beloved fairy tale story.

Adding to her growing list of lead roles following a memorable performance as Clara in Nutcracker, principal dancer Nicole Kelsch raised the bar high with her stellar performance as Cinderella in its Maryland Hall opening in February. In her return to the role Kelsch seems destined to play this classic fairy tale heroine, as she tweaks her dance characterization to perfection, investing her Cinderella with trusting innocence and indomitable spirit, dancing with an incredibly light innate grace that made the most difficult pirouette appear easy. Kelsch’s partnering with Alexander Colllen’s Prince was sublime in sensitive expression of total trust, affection and in confident assurance.

As the Prince, Collen brilliantly executed Cuatto’s challenging choreography, charismatically commanding the stage vigorously executing dynamic jumps and impressive leaps. Collen brought spectacular skill to his 3-stage lifts that became breath-taking in his smooth, seamless execution, his sensitive partnering creating sublime pas de deux that were spell-binding to the appreciative audience.

Choreographer Cuatto added several charming scenes introducing one that introduced a young Cinderella in happier days before the death of her father, and also created a ghost of Cinderella’s father who visits her as she works at her unending tasks demanded by her Stepmother. Cinderella receives affection only from the ghost of her father in a series of lovely pas de deux danced in dream sequences.

At the Lyric performance the role of Cinderella’s father was gently danced by Calder Taylor, who also added stature, vigor and drama to several other scenes along with some rare comedy as Dance Master to the stepsisters.

As always the female dancers deliver superb dance in abundance with special kudos due Lynne Bellinger (Spring Fairy), Elizabeth Fittro (Summer Fairy), Gaia Rappaport (Winter Fairy), and equal praise due Heidi Erickson (The Laughing Princess), Eve Holmes (The Shy Princess), Emily Reed (Batting Eyes Princess), and Loren Williams (Vain Princess) all delivering noteworthy performances.

The entire ensemble of male dancers including Alden Taylor, Peter Elverson, William Smith, Aaron Bauer, and apprentice Roman Mykyta brought exciting vigor to spirited dances along with deft comedic skills as needed.

The role of Young Cinderella was danced with joy and precision by Lydia Siegenthaler, who also contributed to the fantasy as one of the Clock Trolls and was seen as one of the Cobblers. Additionally, as is her custom, Cuatto utilized the talents of BTM student dancers and in this instance White Marsh Ballet Academy students. Together they added to the fantasy.

 Alexander Collen (Prince) holds Nicole Kelsch (Cinderella) over his head. Photo by Bud Johnson.
Alexander Collen (Prince) holds Nicole Kelsch (Cinderella) over his head. Photo by Bud Johnson.

Great fun was provided by Cinderella’s mean stepsisters – Lisette danced with comedic perfection by Alyssa Johnson-Taylor and Annabelle danced with equal comedic skill by Jillian Cyr – creating havoc at the ball after exhausting their dance teachers at an earlier lesson. Together these immensely skilled dancers created a pair of hilarious klutzes.

Contributing her own nasty moments was Rebekah Hostetter dancing the role of Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother, not only convincingly evil but humorously vain especially in her royal ball appearance.

Totally opposite, but equally skilled, was Lauren Derrig in her versatile Fairy Godmother and Beggar portrayals, adding substantial magic of her own when transforming Cinderella for the ball and becoming a magically lovely Fairy Godmother at the ball.

Altogether in this second performance of Ballet Theatre of Maryland at the Modell Lyric Performing Arts Center, the premier dance company for the entire state of Maryland establishes a precedent that we hope will become an annual 2-day event that would be mutually beneficial to the Lyric venue and BTM, and a wonderful addition to the schedule to delight Baltimore’s ballet cognoscenti.

Running Time: Two hours and 45 minutes, including two intermissions.

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Cinderella was performed on May 28, 2015 at Ballet Theatre of Maryland performing at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric -140 West Mount Royal Avenue, in Baltimore, MD.

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Purchase tickets here to Innovations 2014-2015  on April 17-19, 2015 at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts – 801 Chase Street, in Annapolis, MD.

RATING:  FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif

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Mary P. Johnson
In retirement, Mary P. Johnson became a freelance arts writer covering the Anne Arundel scene reviewing theater, opera, ballet, and occasionally profiling exhibiting gallery artists. Published every week for over 18 years continuing in the Baltimore Sun Anne Arundel Section, Mary also established arts coverage for the Severna Park Voice, where she wrote for ten years followed in 2011 by writing 11 months for several Patch publications in Anne Arundel and beyond. Mary is a long-time member of the American Theatre Critics Association, and also for ten years a member of JAWS, a national association of women journalists. Listed for the last 15 years in three of Marquis Who’s Who publications - American Women, America and the World, Mary also was twice nominated for the Annie Award in Literary Arts – an honor presented by the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County - which she regretfully declined for ethical reasons. Mary is a strong advocate for the resident companies of Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis and for Anne Arundel Community College’s performing arts companies. For more than 20 years she has served on the board of directors of the Performing Arts Association of Linthicum.