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Published: Saturday, 6/23/2007

Baby company keeps balance in 1st steps

BY SALLY VALLONGO
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Although it's not quite half over, 2007 has been a humdinger of a year for Ekaterina Atamenyenko and Arkadiy Orohovsky: they've parted ways with the Toledo Ballet where she was a teacher and he was artistic director. They've started a new company - the Toledo Classical Ballet Academy - which apparently is running almost full tilt.

They've had a son, Alexei.

Oh yes, and now they're putting on a show, and not just an end-of-the-year recital.

Last night was the first of two performances of the TCBA's ambitious debut: Sleeping Beauty, the full production with music by Tchaikovsky and choreography by Orohovsky after Marius Petipa. There were lovely costumes, fine guest soloists, charming corps and character dancers, plus featured performers worthy of mention.

It's a big stretch for a company in its formative months. So if the production in the Maumee Performing Arts Center doesn't merit the brass ring, give everyone another ride on the ballet-go-round for valiant effort.

Milwaukee Ballet soloists Diana Stetsura and David Hovhannisyan brought fine professionalism and artistry to the title roles of Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund. Each of their appearances was welcome, although there seemed to be a few stumbles toward the end.

At nearly two-and-a-half hours plus intermission, the production exceeds most Friday-night attention spans, although the many youngsters in the audience seemed game. But including nearly every variation in this famously long ballet seemed excessive, particularly as so many sets were performed by dancers who seemed earnest yet not really well rehearsed.

With minimal sets and little distraction from the nearly inert royal couple played by Adam Stabur and Andrea Collins, the company dancers carried the weight of the show. Adding accent and interest were the guest soloists; featured dancers Orohovsky and Atamenyenko; guest Christopher Fellows, also of the Milwaukee company; Theresa Markovich as the evil fairy Carabosse, and occasional flurries of tiny dancers costumed as bats, fireflies, and nymphs.

As Fairies representing beauty, grace, generosity, temperament, and song, dancers Tasha Wolodko, Monica Stearns, Meredith Garrison, Lucy Messervy, and Taylor Klock suggested a bright future for this company. Kristen Smith was engaging as the Lilac Fairy who alters Carabosse's spell. Garrison, Messervy, and Stearns returned in the second act, with Kayla Shanahan, for featured solos as Jewels.

Portraying other fairy tales, Emily Fuller (Emilee Brenneman will take the role tonight) was a standout as the White Cat, and Wolodko deepened her earlier impression as Cinderella.

The Toledo Classical Ballet Academy's Sleeping Beauty will repeat at 7 tonight in the Maumee Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $15. A question-and-answer session is at 6:30 p.m.

Contact Sally Vallongo at:

svallongo@theblade.com.



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