The Baltimore Ballet (formerly the Maryland Ballet) gave its first repertory performance at Goucher College this weekend with a program that tested the mettle of Alfonso Cata as both artistic director and choreographer. Cata's "Tangos," set to music of Astor Piazzolla, is a collection of appropriately slinky pas de deux that moves at a rapid pace with but few dull patches and makes one curious to see his other ballets.
Judged by this program, Cata is a better choreographer than program designer. The evening was called "Dance Fantasies," and that's stretching it a bit when one of the ballets is Balanchine's "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" (danced by a charming and precise Diane Nelson, rather stolidly partnered by Bruce Steivel).
It was not a good idea to follow "Tangos" with another excursion into sex and the social dance -- John Clifford's "Charleston," an engagingly trashy character ballet whose sole value is to let both dancers and audience have a good time. Denis Johnston as a masher, Viktoria Page as a fan dancer and Carol Marie Strizak as a flapper, helped make "Charleston" the hit of the evening.
The program was completed by Deborah Zall's "Pastorale," a work which tries to marry contractions with cartwheels and succeeds only in manipulating cliches, and Balanchine's "Valse Fantasie," in which the clean footwork of Mario Trujillo was more outstanding than the harshness of Kathleen Smith, a dancer more suited to the bubblegum-blowing drunk of "Charleston" than the gossamer lady of "Valse."