Washington Ballet Dancer Dies After Being Hit by Car

Mary Saludares was a member of the Washington Ballet's Studio Company.
Mary Saludares was a member of the Washington Ballet's Studio Company. (By Tony Powell)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Sarah Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Washington Ballet was reeling yesterday from the death of one of its Studio Company members, who was hit by a car on Friday after a performance at Harford Community College in Bel Air, Md.

Mary Saludares, 20, "was one of the most joyful and positive people I've ever met," said Washington Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre, who heads the small Studio Company, a pre-professional trainee program for young dancers. Less than two weeks ago, local audiences had seen Saludares dance in the corps of the Washington Ballet's performances of "La Sylphide" at the Kennedy Center.

On Friday, Saludares had danced a pas de deux in George Balanchine's "Who Cares?" and returned to her hotel along with staff members and the other Studio Company dancers. The dancers' plan was to spend the rest of the evening watching a movie, ballet officials said yesterday, and Saludares and two other company members decided to walk across the highway to a convenience store for snacks.

They didn't make it. Bel Air police say Saludares dashed in front of an oncoming Chevy Impala about 10 p.m. while crossing Route 24. She was pronounced dead at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center an hour and a half later. The driver was not charged.

Webre had left Bel Air after the performance to drive guest choreographer Brian Reeder, who had created a work for the group, to Washington. He rushed back after learning of the accident. Performances that had been slated for Saturday at the College of Southern Maryland in La Plata and Sunday at Howard Community College in Columbia were canceled. Saludares's brother has flown in from the Philippines, Webre said; her parents, who also live in the Philippines, are expected to follow.

Webre, reached in his office yesterday, said he had just been replaying the DVD of Saludares's Washington School of Ballet graduation performance last spring, at which she had danced the difficult role of Odette in the Act 2 pas de deux from "Swan Lake." "She had such a startling maturity and vulnerability and beauty," he said.

Saludares also had "an uncomplicated view of the world," Webre said, and she had given him a taste of that just before the curtain went up at Friday's show. Webre had come onstage to speak about the international nature of the Studio Company, describing dancers from Romania, Japan, Australia and Brazil. But he blanked on the Philippines, he said, and later apologized to Saludares backstage. "Oh, that's okay," Saludares told him. "Today I'm an honorary Brazilian." During intermission, he said, he caught sight of her practicing the samba, laughing and joking with her Brazilian colleagues.

The Washington Ballet has established a fund to defray the Saludareses' funeral expenses, and plans to hold a memorial service early next month, though a date has not been set.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company