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Ballet Theatre of Maryland is not your mother's ballet

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Photo courtesy of Nick Eckert. The Ballet Theatre of Maryland performed the "Director's Choice" on Friday in Annapolis.

Photo courtesy of Nick Eckert. The Ballet Theatre of Maryland performed the "Director's Choice" on Friday in Annapolis.

Published on: Friday, April 19, 2013

By Sarah Hainesworth

Enthusiastic ballet lovers gathered last Friday at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis for “Directors Choice” — a celebration of the 35th anniversary of the Ballet Theatre of Maryland.

Originally named the Ballet Theatre of Annapolis, the company was renamed in 2000 to serve the entire state. The company has performed at Maryland Hall, the Baltimore Museum of Art, The Chesapeake Arts Center, Mar-Va Theatre and the Bowie Performing Arts Center.

Friday’s performances marked the end of the 2012-2013 season, the 10th season for director Diane Cuatto.

Cuatto, who begun her professional dance career in 1963, choreographed four of the five American themed pieces featured in “Director’s Choice” with one piece by the late renowned choreographer Antony Tudor.

“It’s a real honor to do a Tudor piece,” Cuatto said.

Colorful and vibrant are the best ways to describe the costumes and choreography. Cuatto explained that she is inspired by music, reading and people watching.

Although Cuatto’s experience includes teaching at the San Francisco Ballet, Oklahoma Ballet, New Orleans Ballet Theatre, Ballet West and other organizations, Cuatto is pleased to be a part of the Ballet Theatre of Maryland.

“It’s a great group of dancers to work with. They are all such a team and a family,” she said. “I feel very grateful and happy. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth every minute.”

Ballet mistress, Meagan Helman, shared the same sentiment.

“I think it’s really exciting. I’ve been here nine years now. I’ve seen the growth. It’s been really nice to see all the progress to get us where we are today,” she said.

Helman, a dancer since age four, said the arts were always important in her household. She encourages aspiring dancers to do what they love.

“Follow your heart and dreams,” she said. “It’s a lot of work and effort, sweat and long days, but if you really love it, it’s worth those few moments on stage.”

Helman is from Wilmington, Del., and, according to Cuatto, it’s not uncommon for dancers from other states to audition. Cuatto said out of state dancers often try out for the Summer Intensive, a dance program for students ages 9 to adult. Currently, the company has dancers from as far away as Hawaii, Russia and France.

Ballet volunteer Mary Ann Kingsley said the performance was “beautiful choreography from start to finish.”

“I thought it was a very, very good performance, diverse and incredibly challenging,” Kingsley said. “I think it might change people’s perception of ballet. People think of tutus, but it’s very contemporary.”

The dancers will return to the Bowie Performing Arts Center during the 2013-2014 season with performances of “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake” and “Director’s Choice.”

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Thursday, April 17, 2014