Bursting into 2020 with "I'm Old Fashioned," Miami City Ballet hits the visceral nail on the head with an evening that celebrates joy, beauty, a touch of whimsey and pays homage to great masters. Frequently, a program is lauded as having something for everyone, but in this case, the adage holds true.
Opening at the Adrienne Arsht Center Ziff Ballet Opera House on Friday, Jan. 10, "I'm Old Fashioned" brings together four ballets, each choreographed by a master of his craft.
New York City Ballet founder George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins (who carried numerous titles with NYCB) need no introduction. They are choreographic icons of MCB (as well as so many other companies) and MCB not only reveres their work, but pays homage to it in their programming. "Old Fashioned" includes two of their works. Joining Balanchine and Robbins is Christopher Wheeldon, former New York City Ballet dancer, choreographer extraordinaire, a "whose who" in the dance community and renowned Broadway guru. To complete the choreographic quadrille is former director of the Bolshoi Ballet and present Resident Choreographer for American Ballet Theater, Alexei Ratmansky, a name that is synonymous with historical accuracy and creative ingenuity.
"I'm Old Fashioned" was choreographed by Jerome Robbins as a tribute to Fred Astaire based on a dance sequence with Astaire and Rita Hayworth from the movie, "You Were Never Lovelier.' It premiered in 1983 shortly after Balanchine's death. One wonders if it also wasn't a small tribute to Balanchine, who was Astaire's biggest fan.
The ballet opens with a film of Astaire and Hayworth in a dance sequence. The duo bump, bow and disappear behind French doors. Robbins' choreography blends with the film and eventually takes over as dancers enter the stage in couples and ensembles evoking the glamour of the Silver Screen. Typical of Robbins, the women are on pointe.
Of the three lead couples, MCB stars Emily Bromberg and Rainer Krenstetter dance together in, what is referred to, as the Lazy Couple.
Reflecting on the Lazy Couple, Krenstetter says, "I imagine being on a terrace looking at the sky full of stars after having already had two glasses of champagne."
Robbins choreography is difficult under any circumstance, but "Old Fashioned" demands some unusual qualities that are not typical of Robbins work.
Bromberg says, "In the pas de deuxs, I definitely feel the more classic Robbins choreography, but in the finale, I feel like Rita Hayworth. It is a really different feeling, the upper body movement. It is fun to find the glamour and I try to bring that out."
Both Bromberg and Krenstetter used the word "chill" to describe the nuance expected. They strive to find the style and ease of movement while staying true to the Hollywood era of the 40s.
"It is not about the high legs, the circus," says Krenstetter. Because of his very strict classical ballet training, the suave, debonaire quality is just as challenging for Krenstetter as more difficult in its technique.
"I'm a perfectionist," Krenstetter laughed. "In the studio, I want to get the technical skills and the smoothness as perfect as possible, so on stage, I'm not thinking about that anymore."
Technical skill and seamless partnering ability are required in Wheeldon's "This Bitter Earth " where once again, Bromberg and Krenstetter are paired. With vocals by the sultry voice of Dinah Washington over Max Richter's familiar score from "On the Nature of Daylight," Wheeldon has created a difficult and haunting duet.
It is chock full of off balance partnering that looks easy when it's well danced.
While Bromberg loves the whimsey and the joy of dancing "I'm Old Fashioned," she feels a special affinity for "This Bitter Earth." She says it touches her soul.
"There is such a deepness with this music, this movement and the connection with the partner," Bromberg says. "It's such a hard pas de deux. I think every single person feels a connection to it, but in a different way."
There is no story. The mix of Washington's voice with the Richter score creates an atmosphere of sadness and longing to accompany the movement.
"There's a beauty to the bitterness" Bromberg says. "I love it."
It is always a special treat when the choreographer is able to be a part of the rehearsal. For "This Bitter Earth," Wheeldon was able to oversee the second day of rehearsal in Miami as the couples were still learning the material.
This was Krenstetter's first time working directly with Wheeldon.
"It was amazing," he says. "He (Wheeldon) was so human and calm. There was no stress. It was so important to get information from him. It was a lot about what he wanted from the movement. I think back to what he said as I get more comfortable with the steps."
Krenstetter, who danced in Europe prior to joining MCB, is always glad to work with different people and gather new information. This is especially true for him in Balanchine's energetic,"Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux," a well known pas de deux that is performed throughout the world. Learning different approaches to the pas adds more layers to the artistic presentation.
"Tchai Pas" as it's commonly referred to, requires technical prowess, skill, and stamina.
"It is definitely a more outgoing pas," says Krenstetter, "whereas 'This Bitter Earth' is much more intimate."
Closing the program, Ratmansky's "Symphonic Dances" was created on MCB in 2012 to Rachmaninoff's dramatic score of the same name. It has since become one of MCB's most sought after works and has become one of Ratmansky's most successful pieces.
The fast paced, energetic ballet reflects the personalities of MCB, the dance movement of the company and the way they work as a group.
Bromberg, who was in the original staging, says, "Miami City Ballet dancers always help each other out, no matter what. I think Ratmansky sensed that when the ballet was created."
This program reflects the unity, the diversity, the technical ability and the artistry of Miami City Ballet dancers who dance in four very different ballets that have been created by masters of their craft.
Adrienne Arsht Center Ziff Ballet Opera House, 1300 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, FL. 33132
- Friday, Jan. 10, 2020, 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, 2 p.m.
Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd, West Palm Beach, FL 33401
- Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, 1 p.m.
Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 Southwest 5th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312
- Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, 2 p.m.
Tickets start at $30 and are available for purchase at miamicityballet.org, by phone (Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.) at 305.929.7010 or 877.929.7010, or in person at 2200 Liberty Ave, Miami Beach, Fla., 33139.
$15 student tickets are available online starting 14 days prior to the performance. Students can also buy $15 tickets at the theater one hour before a performance. Tickets subject to availability. More information at miamicityballet.org/studentdiscount.