Ballet Theatre of Maryland brings ‘Cinderella’ to the beach

Nicole Kelsch stars as Cinderalla in the Ballet Theatre of Maryland performance of the classic fairy tale, coming to the Ocean City Performing Arts Center on March 7. (PHOTO COURTESY NICK ECKERT)

(Jan. 16, 2015) The Ballet Theatre of Maryland, bringing a new production of the classic fairy tale “Cinderella” on March 7, is among the first big acts coming to Ocean City’s new $14 million Performing Arts Center.

Founded in 1978 as the Ballet Theatre of Annapolis, the company originally launched as an alternative to Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center.

“The board of trustees wanted Maryland to have a professional ballet company, and at that time specifically they wanted it in Annapolis so they didn’t have to go to [Washington D.C.] to see good ballet,” Artistic Director Dianna Cuatto said.

At the turn of the last century, the company rebranded with the goal of serving the entire state. Cuatto was brought into the fold in 2003.

“We’ve been building a base throughout the state even though our hometown is still Annapolis,” she said. “We are really the only fully professional ballet company in the state.”

“Cinderella” marks the company’s  first foray into Ocean City at the new convention center.

Cuatto said the collective brings “brand new” choreography to the 100-year-old play, originally performed in Russia and set to a Prokofiev score.

“The Royal Ballet did a version in the 50’s, but there have been a lot of different versions done since then,” she said. “I was in the very first American choreographed version in 1968 at Ballet West in Utah, and I played the original Fairy Godmother. My roots go back to that version a lot, because that was my first experience with the ballet and it was a really wonderful experience.”

The Ballet Theatre of Maryland also performed the play seven years ago, although Cuatto said this year’s version is far more advanced.

“This is a brand new production of it because seven years ago the company wasn’t as fully professional as it is now,” she said. “There were a lot more kids in the production then and there hardly are any now. The company has grown so much, so I’m actually rechoreographing the whole thing.”

When Cuatto took over as artistic director, the company employed just six professional dancers. Today, there are nearly 40.

The entire company will travel to Ocean City, and the audience should be able to appreciate the scale of “Cinderella” during a peak scene near the climax.

“The ball scene is probably the biggest scene,” Cuatto said. “You’ll have assorted fairies that come through there as well as courtiers and princesses, and Cinderella and the prince, of course. That’s probably the fullest the stage will be.”

Cuatto said the message of the performance, like the fairy tale itself, is that dreams can still come true.

“I think that’s one of the messages that resonates so well with this ballet,” she said. “Whether you have a real-life fairy godmother or not, I think there’s a lot of magic that can be there, and I think the language or dance can be transformative, allowing you to feel that dreams are coming true while you’re watching it.

“Ballet is a very powerful language, but a lot of people might not realize they like it if they’ve never seen it,” Cuatto continued. “I think it gives us hope. There’s something very wonderful about the gift of dance.”

“Cinderella” opens on March 7 at 2 p.m., with support from the Worcester County Library Foundation and the Worcester County Arts Council.

“This is the fifth consecutive year that the Worcester County Library Foundation has brought the Ballet to the county,” Lisa Outten Stant, Adult Program and Public Relations Manager at the Worcester County Library, said. “The foundation, with support from the Worcester County Arts Council, subsidizes the ticket price to ensure that all Worcester County citizens have the opportunity to see a professional ballet.”

Tickets are $10, available at all Worcester County Library branches and at the Ocean City Convention Center Box office.

For more information contact Stant at 410-632-3970.

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