TODAY Only: ‘Tribute to Classical Ballet’ at L’Etoile, The Classical Ballet Theatre of Maryland

Dance Preview: L’Etoile Dances a Ballet Gem

Pretty, pastel costumes, new ribbons on the toe shoes, tiaras that sparkle bright as a shiny new penny – these are signs of spring recitals where young dancers awaken to the beauty of ballet.

And nobody puts on a lovelier dance program than Svetlana Kravtsova and Vadim Pijicov, founding directors of L’Etoile, The Classical Ballet Theatre of Maryland. Their Columbia-based company will perform a Tribute to Classical Ballet this Saturday evening at The Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring.

Guest artist Ruslan Mukhambetkeliyev leaps in Le Corsaire on Saturday, May 20. Photo courtesy of L’Etoile, The Classical Ballet Theatre of Maryland.

At a recent program for invited guests and families, we watched Kravtsova rehearse the rarely staged “Le Jardin Anime” from Le Corsaire, a work that showcases L’Etoile’s well-trained dancers and shows off the bravura of guest artist Ruslan Mukhambetkeliyev from Kazakhstan (and more recently the Pittsburgh Ballet).

Set to a score by Adolphe Adam, Le Corsaire is a sparkling jewel in the 19th century repertoire – think pirates and princesses and lots of flying leaps across the stage. This Arabian ballet with original Petipa choreography remains the perfect introduction to a story ballet.

For me, though, it was a special treat to watch Mukhambetkeliyev soar as Ali, the slave who throws himself at the feet of Medora, a coveted role that teenage ballerina Grace Zhang performs with sweetness and precise technique. He reminds this writer of a young Rudolf Nureyev who could gobble up space quicker than you can translate “Wow” in Russian. Her magic begins when she falls into the arms of her suitor in the familiar Pas de Deux, then is carried high above his head. Gorgeous.

Kravtsova and Pijicov have created a company that continues to surprise us. Hannalise Shaughnessy shines in the second act variation; Andrea Fox takes off in a grand jete, then seemingly sits in the air. Meanwhile, Ashley Xu performs a contemporary piece and Jacob Blank charges forward in a lively folk/character dance that closes the first act in the program.

“This is a special performance for my ballerinas who will graduate from high school,” sighs the former principal dancer who somehow manages to transform budding dancers into beautiful ballerinas. Graduating high school seniors are: Grace Zhang and Jeanne Doyle.

Tribute to Classical Ballet plays TODAY, May 20, 2017, at L’Etoile, The Classical Ballet Theatre of Maryland performing at The Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center, 7995 Georgia Avenue, in Silver Spring, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (443) 393-1197, or purchase them online.

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