The area debut of the Atlanta Ballet at the Weinberg Center in Frederick, Md., Friday night was plagued by several misfortunes, both physical and esthetic, that prevented the company from being seen in the best light.
This was too bad, both because the company seems basically attractive, and because -- as the oldest continuously existing ballet troupe in the nation -- it is a natural focus of attention.
Founded in 1929 by Dorothy Alexander -- and thus now celebrating its 50th anniversary season -- the Atlanta Ballet in its earlier years was the point of origin for the still-burgeoning "resional ballet" movement in this country.
Since 1963 under the artistic direction of former New York City Ballet dancer Robert Barnett, the troupe has evolved into a quasi-professional unit with a heavy national touring schedule. In its present incarnation, it consists of 25 dancers, including nine apprentices, all of them on hand for the Frederick performance.
Among them are such noteworthy young dancers as Phillippine-born, 26-year-old ballerina Maniya Barredo and 22-year-old Georgia native Joseph Carman, both of whom danced for a time with the Jeffrey Ballet. The conpany, which appears on the whole well-trained and spirited, boasts a number of other able soloists, both male and female.
None, however, was displayed to particular advantage in the troupe's full-length, three-act "Cinderella," choreographed to the familar Prokofiev score by the company's assistant director, Tom Pazik.
The ballet has all the traditional -- and some not-so-traditional -- characters and plot elements, but little of the romantic charm of the fairy tale that inspired it. Despite fairly elaborate furnishings and attire, the production has a provincial, dilettantish look about it. It's also weakest where strength is needed most -- in its choreography, which is too often burdened with musical and dramatic gaucherie.
To add to the drawbacks, there was a bizarre accident that night: In the final enchanted-forest scene, during an attempted change of setting, a massive light pole was knocked over and and fell to the stage floor with a frightening crash and puffs of smoke. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt; but one dancer -- tumbled by the impact -- was left in a state of shock, and the performance was abruptly terminated with apologies.
The ideal compensation for all parties would be an accident-free return engagement and a more artistically substantive program.