As artistic director of Miami City Ballet, Lourdes Lopez, said, in her traditional pre-performance greeting to the Arsht Center audience during its season closer of Program Four that if an audience member was moved to passion or excitement in the course of the performances throughout the year, then MCB had done their job.
For MCB, it was a vast year of presentations; the elegance of Balanchine’s “Jewels,” a new production of “The Nutcracker,” an eclectic contemporary work by Brian Brooks, a tribute to icon Jerome Robbins, as well as many noted pieces and familiar revivals.
And, there we were, entering the finale with Program Four. The most poignant and revealing statement made by Lopez was that to create great art in the future, we must continue to look to the past. Program Four couldn't have been a truer example.
Opening the evening of Program Four was Balanchine’s 1928, “Apollo,” based on the mythical tale of the gods. “Apollo” ignited and sealed the choreographer, composer relationship with Igor Stravinsky that would last until Balanchine’s death in 1983.
“Apollo” was also Balanchine’s first lasting ballet, a ballet with neo-classical technique used in a classical vein that altered the look of classical ballet of the future. “Apollo,” as the costuming has gotten more simple with time, is a ballet that reveals its strength in the personalities of the performers who deliver it.
The writhing childbirth of Leto, the abandon and explosion of energy in the young Apollo who matures to manhood, and the beauty and uniqueness of each of the three muses. Technically clear, and very carefully delivered, Renan Cerdeiro as Apollo, Tricia Albertson, the muse of dance, Jennifer Lauren, the muse of mime and Emily Bromberg the muse of poetry, while not overt personas, were an elegant and proficient cast, even with some shaky transitions. The final ascension to Mount Olympus was lovely with effective lighting by John Hall.
In Alexei Ratmansky’s “Concerto DSCH,” virtuoso technique showed an explosion of dance with a contemporary edge that paid homage to traditional staging in its most basic form. Circles became straight lines, canons twirled to unison, out of nowhere, a dynamic series of turns came right down the middle of the stage. There was a playfulness in the childlike formations, hops and skips, but there was no subtlety in the demands of the piece. At one moment Chase Swatosh kept rhythm with a flex footed jump while organized chaos swirled around him.
Each person carried their role more than substantially with standouts in Nathalia Arja, Cerdeiro, Kleber Rebello, Jovani Furlan and a sweeping Simone Messmer who is showing a beauty and richness that makes her more accessible with every role. Francisco Rennó delivered the familiar Shostokovitch score with witty and frivolous detail. It was exciting to see the audience react in such an immediate exuberant fashion to the festive and difficult piece.
Last on the program was Balanchine’s, “La Valse” to Ravel’s Valses Nobles et Sentimentales. Bringing to mind Balanchine’s early “Cotillon” containing a dark presence, a ballroom filled with waltzing couples and spiraling circles at the end, “La Valse” is a beautifully mysterious ballet that creates a foreboding atmosphere. Balanchine was never afraid to reference his other works, even though “Cotillon” was never revived. Instead, just as “Cotillon” was created in 1932 for 13 year old, Tamara Toumanova, in 1951, “La Valses” was created for Tanaquil Le Clerk. Balanchine was inspired by the dancers he created for.
At one point, the stately Jordan Elizabeth Long (in a role perfectly suited for her), Callie Manning and Nicole Stalker took a pose like the three muses in "Apollo.” The fateful elegance of the waltzes, the port de bras or arm movements of the women, the Death figure and the simple austerity of the woman in white whose life is claimed (poignantly portrayed by Tricia Albertson) created an atmosphere of exquisite haunting doom. The dancers of Miami City Ballet were at their familiar best in this Balanchine work. Kudos to Arja who totally transformed her look from the prior piece.
The final two opportunities to see Miami City Ballet in this wonderful program will be at the Broward Center this weekend.
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW 5th Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312
Saturday, April 28 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 29 at 2 p.m.
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