Miami City Ballet (MCB) was in top form when they presented Program Two, “Dances at a Gathering” at the Adrienne Arsht Ziff Opera House. This weekend, the ballet company brings its Program Two to the Broward Center For The Performing Arts.
An evening comprised of only two ballets (one of which was Dances at a Gathering) separated by one intermission, was a sheer dance performance that revealed beautifully clean and technical dancers who were also lovely artists. The dancers have grown, for sure, under artistic director, Lourdes Lopez’s leadership. In much of the Balanchine choreography that MCB is known for, the dancers are in service to the choreography. The choreography is at the forefront as Balanchine choreography is known for. In this evening, however, the choreography was a vehicle to allow the individual personalities of the dancers to be present.
"Dances at a Gathering," choreographed by Jerome Robbins (1969) is known as a Robbins masterpiece. Set to 18 piano pieces by Frederick Chopin, elegantly played by pianist, Francisco Rennó, the ballet is a lighthearted tribute to dancers and dancing. The other piece, "Brahms/Handel" (1984) was a unique collaboration between Robbins and Twyla Tharp, two choreographic icons of that time. It was an interesting choice to program these particular ballets together. At first look, they seemed similar, but in reality, couldn’t have been more different.
While "Dances at a Gathering" was fluid and seamless, the large cast of blue and green hombré costumed dancers in "Brahms/Handel" twisted and blended in configurations that were difficult to follow and the dance seemed awkward at times. Both pieces were based on ballet technique being used as a vehicle to create relationships, display emotions and dynamics.
In "Brahms/Handel," the Robbins group was blue and the Tharp group was green. Starting very classically, executing ballet classroom steps, the piece evolved to a blur of colors with dancers intermingling. The cast was led by the enthusiastic, Jennifer Lauren and Kleber Robello in blue and Nathalia Arja (replacing Tricia Albertson) with Alexander Peters in green. Arja made a memorable entrance as she was held aloft, carried across the stage as a reigning queen. The ballet was unique to itself, dazzling at times, and confusing at others. Often there was a chorus of dancers in the background while there were featured ensembles at the front. The most glorious moments were when the masses of dancers in blue and green took the stage together and created an overwhelming presence.
Starting the program off on an entirely different foot was "Dances at a Gathering." It is lengthy, taking the entire first half of the performance in an on-going series of whimsical duets, solos and ensembles. The costumes were billowy in a palette of muted colors, each one different. The movement, while it certainly wasn’t easy to execute, and, at times, evoked audience gasps, seemed organic. The transitions were smooth and effortless. Each of the ten dancers developed an identity that became more clear as the piece evolved.
It is curious about dance technique. It is very difficult to make hard technique look easy and effortless and "Dances at a Gathering" was a case in point.
Renato Penteado was the first person to enter the stage. His lone, quiet presence while executing a clean and elegant solo was a gentle foreshadow of what was to come. Emily Bromberg in mauve and Renan Cerdeiro, in a more vibrant green, floated through their pas de deux and seemed to be enjoying each moment. A boyish Chase Swatosh in purple with Arja, always energetic and sprightly, carried an engaging humoresque, demi-character essence as they whisked around the stage. Arja, in apricot, was a flurry of bows and a flouncy dress.
Ariel Rose, stepping in for Jovani Furlan, adeptly partnered Katia Carranza, as he and Penteado vied for her attention. Shimon Ito, burning up the stage with technical exuberance, was a great match for Arja in attack and dynamics. In their duet, he finally swept her off her feet to perch sideways on his back in a surprise landing. Carranza, in a more demur role for her, was the perfect blend of elegance, poignancy and proficiency in every move she made.
A duet by Swatosh and Penteado was just as much backward movement as it was moving forward. Robbins had a lot of subtle humor in his choreography. The cast was completed with a luscious Lauren Fadeley in green and a stalwart, Ashley Knox.
The entire group stopped in still photographic moments to look at and through the audience. It gave the audience an opportunity to see this lovely cast. In a reverent bow to each other, the cast coupled up and dreamily exited the stage.
Bromberg’s immaculate placement of her foot as she stepped signified the simple beauty and elegance of Dances at Gathering.
Performances in Fort Lauderdale are 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts , 5201 SW 5th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312. For tickets: 954-462-0222 | www.miamicityballet.org/performances/program-two
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