By Tara Mitton Catao
On Friday at the Kravis Center, Miami City Ballet ﬁnished off its 2012-2013 season by presenting an evening that crisscrossed Broadway with ballet, and ballet with Broadway.
The program featured two works of two great choreographers, Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine. The works were created by colleagues who seemed to have traded their signature dancing shoes for each other’s. Broadway choreographer Robbins chose pointe shoes and tights and master ballet choreographer Balanchine opted for tap shoes and high heels.
After garnering fame for his proliﬁc work in Broadway musicals and a 12-year absence from the ballet world, Jerome Robbins returned to New York City Ballet and choreographed Dances at a Gathering, which premiered in 1969. After the sets, costumes and multitude of performers usually seen in a Broadway show, it was a marked departure for him.
This engaging dance manages to be pure and simple but also wonderfully romantic with its lush movement and easy canons that merged beautifully with the romantic music of Frédéric Chopin. Using a string of eminently danceable mazurkas, waltzes and etudes marvelously played by Francisco Rennó, the company’s pianist and music adviser, Dances at a Gathering lasts for 58 minutes but you are not bored for one second.
The 10 dancers, distinguished in the program by the color of their costume, delved into the music and movement with fullness and focus. It was a beautiful, reﬂective hour, almost like a yoga class where one needs to ﬁlter out all other thoughts, relax and experience the moment as the beauty of the movement and the essence of romance ﬁlled the stage.
The Delgado sisters led the cast, with Jeanette in pink and Patricia in lavender. Jeanette danced with sensuality and musicality and Patricia with intensity in her dramatic solo. Callie Manning in green was really stunning in her variation. There was a richness in her movement, vibrant and pliant, and she danced, full of intent, with a wonderfully nuanced movement quality. Handsome Renato Penteado was excellent in his solo of changing-direction jetés. Kleber Rebello, looking totally at ease, was light on his legs in his beautiful jumps and clean and precise in his multiple pirouettes while his partner Tricia Albertson seemed somewhat forced as she struggled with the speed of the footwork.
There were many beautiful moments as couples met and parted as they crisscrossed the stage. String of marvelous duets all ended with the woman suspended in a lift and carried off stage. Jennifer Lauren had a serene air about her and was lovely in blue. Reyneris Reyes, Renan Cerdeiro and Chase Swatosh were all attentive partners that moved beautifully.
Dances at a Gathering’s gentle exuberance laced together with its sense of romance and Robbins’ masterful movement vocabulary looked sleek and contemporary even now, nearly 45 years later. It is a beautiful work, well danced, that will never be dated.
Next on the program was George Balanchine’s foray into Broadway. With so much talk today about gun violence, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue was strangely appropriate but, as it takes place in a red velvet, speakeasy nightclub ﬁlled with gangsters, dolls, mobsters and policemen, it is “vintage style” gun violence.
A couple of murders, some real, some not, and it was over. Entertaining to watch, it had some elements in it which must have been viewed as innovative or daring when it was ﬁrst performed in 1936 as part of Rodgers and Hart’s musical On Your Toes. It began with the “set-up” in front of the curtain where, through a dialogue, a scheming Kleber Rebello plotted a shooting with the gangster Renato Penteado.
Even with the help of this set up, the storyline was confusing as it was a play within a play. When Balanchine decided to make a dance version for New York City Ballet in 1968, he kept the convoluted storyline even though he re-choreographed it. But the movement is still very Broadway with its high kicks, hip thrusts and tap-dancing central character.
The Strip Tease Girl was danced by Patricia Delgado who proved that ballet dancers can do the Broadway moves albeit in a costume with the fashion no-no of white heels with black stockings. Lanky Yann Trividic gave a loose, disheveled and almost disinterested performance as the Hoofer. The trio of Michael Sean Breeden, Renan Cerdeiro and Shimon Ito as the Policemen was sparkling with Ito as the dynamic standout. The duo of Bradley Dunlap and Neil Marshall as the comedic bartenders who dispose of the body was great.
Soon after the success of Dances at a Gathering, Robbins became ballet master of the New York City Ballet and worked mostly in ballet only returning to Broadway to stage revivals of his former hits. Luckily, after dabbling in Broadway shows in 1930s and 1940s, Balanchine stayed with the pointe shoes and went on to create scores of marvelous ballets.
In a gracious letter in the program, new Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez thanked all who have made Miami City Ballet what it is today. She went on to say that the company will “increasingly look” to complement the existing repertory with new choreography which she believes will demand further growth not only from her dancers but also from the audience. Next year’s season will include four premieres and a full-length production of Don Quixote.
This program can be seen at the Kravis today at 8 pm and again at 1 pm Sunday; call 832-7469 or visit www.kravis. org. It comes to the Broward Center from April 26-April 28 at the Broward Center (call 954-462-0222 or visit www.broward.org) and to the Arsht Center in Miami from May 3-5 (call 305-949-6722 or visit www.arshtcenter.org). Call 305-929-7010 or visit www.miamicityballet.org.