Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s Momentum is a collection of four classical and contemporary works that showcases the extraordinary talents of the company. The first two pieces are choreographed by former Artistic Director Dianna Cuatto, while the third and fourth ones are choreographed by dancers Isaac Martinez and Lindsey Bell, respectively.
This viewing was streamed from the Prince George Community College Center for Performing Arts in Largo; the last two performances will be livestreamed and for an in-person audience outside Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis.
American Ballads, the first work, has dancers performing to traditional American folk songs. “Red Stripes” has military-style music, which the Corps (Carrie Cornelius, Madeline Jones, Brenna Sweeney, and Madison Sweeney), wearing red dresses, salute and kneel to in precise fashion. Soloist Cindy Case spins and extends her legs, while demi-soloists Hannah Hanson and Marjorie O’Hearne leap across the stage. “White Stripes” features a just-recognizable “America the Beautiful,” which the Corps (Amanda Cobb, Audrey Martin, Isabella Warshaw, and Victoria Walpole-McWilliams), in white dresses, dance to in a flowing, light fashion. Soloists Lauren Martinez and Lelan Lewis spin and leap together and separately before Lewis carries Martinez across the stage. “Blue Field” begins with a Trio of Caroline Anderson, Cassandra Hope, and Clara Molina saluting and extending their arms and legs. Richard Link and Karissa Kralik perform a dramatic duet, beginning with Link kneeling on the floor and slowly standing. He raises Kralik on his shoulders, spins and lifts her, before walking off to her kneeling in the center. In the finale, with “When Johnnie Comes Marching Home” (recognizable from the film Dr. Strangelove), each section reappears, first separately then together, ending a great mixture of colors as they salute and kneel.
Shades of Blue features four separate duets dancing to the music of Saint-Saens, a Corps of dancers (Clara Molina, Celia Merritt, Catherine Welch, Mia Koshansky, Destiny Billot, Rowan Treece, and Ansley Mater) beginning and ending the piece. The Corps, in blue dresses, leap and spin, forming columns that pass each other. “Trust” has Isaac Martinez gracefully spinning, dipping, and carrying Sarah Jung, while “Devotion” shows Alexander Collen lifting Emily Brennan by her hands and spinning her around. “Introspection” features Collen again, this time spinning Lindsey Bell while she extends her leg, as well as lifting her upside down and carrying her across the stage. “Tranquility” begins with Victoria Siracusa lying on the ground, as Richard Link lifts her over his back and carries her, ending with her walking off to Link kneeling in the center. “Communion” features all four duets and the Corps returning, first separately, then all together.
Isaac Martinez’s When We is one of the more unusual, experimental pieces in this show. The music, by Awana, begins with the sound of a ticking clock, and includes snatches of voices and rhythmic instruments; the ending features a woman speaking Spanish. The dancers (Lindsey Bell, Destiny Billot, Emily Brennan, River Byrd, Cindy Case, Alexander Collen, Carrie Cornelius, Olivia Fohsz, Anne Gutcher, Hannah Hanson, Sarah Hoffman, Cassandra Hope, Sara Jung, Mia Koshansky, Karissa Karlik, Lelan Lewis, Lauren Martinez, Ryan Massey, Celia Merritt, Clara Molina, Majorie O’Hearne, Madeline Pautier, Victoria Siracusa, and Brenna Sweeney), all wearing dark jackets and shorts, begin in a square around one of them lying on the floor. Others quickly walk across the stage in front of the square, like pedestrians on a busy city sidewalk. They soon form circles and duos for leg flexing and lifting. In one circle a dancer folds themselves over another in the center, replacing them. Some dancers are picked up and carried through a gauntlet. In the end, they form a semicircle near the back of the stage. The ballet creates a feeling of mystery and intensity.
Lindsey Bell’s Mudita feels like classical music come to life. The dancers (Marjorie O’Hearne, Ryan Massey, Hannah Hanson, Carrie Cornelius, River Byrd, Clara Molina, Victoria Siracusa, Isaac Martinez, Emily Brennan, Lauren Martinez, Caroline Anderson, Destiny Billot, Madeline Jones, Amanda Cobb, and Isabella Warshaw), dressed in red and brown tops and loose skirts for the women, brown t-shirts and bright shorts for the men, move perfectly in time to Vivaldi’s music. There are solos, duets, trios, and groups with spinning, leg extensions, and leaping. The title, Sanskrit for “pure joy unadulterated by self-interest,” certainly applies to this piece, with its light, flowing movements. One slower section shows off the dancers’ tight control and gracefulness. It makes a perfect ending to the collection.
Lighting Designer Stacie Johnson-Leske highlights each part of each work. In American Ballads, red light bathes the stage for “Red Stripes,” while “White Stripes” uses a soft blue light. Different hues of blue filter the stage for each section of Shades of Blue. When We begins with light focused on the center, gradually getting larger while still keeping the stage dark. Mudita is light and bright for the most part, briefly switching to red light for the slower movement.
Momentum is a delightful opportunity to see, either in-person or online, the great variety of ballet, with pieces for everyone to enjoy. Only two performances remain, so be sure to catch it!
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, with no intermission.
Momentum will be performed April 30 and May 1, 2021 on the front lawn of the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts – 801 Chase Street, in Annapolis, MD. It will also be livestreamed. For tickets, please visit Maryland Hall’s website.