Who was dancing with brilliant ease with Miami City Ballet at Kravis Center for the Performing Arts a couple weekends ago?
Why, it was Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth gliding across the stage in a sweeping waltz. Projected larger-than-life on a huge screen, they introduced I’m Old-Fashioned, Jerome Robbins’ tribute to the silver screen and the glamorous, bygone golden age of Hollywood.
In 1983, using music by Morton Gould based on Jerome Kern’s 1942 song, which he wrote for the Astaire-Hayworth vehicle You Were Never Lovelier. Robbins created a theme-and-variations ballet that successfully interacted with the black-and-white film sequence from You Were Never Lovelier that had been his inspiration. With its easy sophistication, it was an enjoyable opener for Program Two of Miami City Ballet’s season on Jan. 18 at the Kravis Center.
Ashley Knox and Alexander Peters, both delightful in their individual solos, were well-paired, bringing out the best of each other in their ensuing duets as the work progressed. Jordan-Elizabeth Long was naturally elegant waltzing in the arms of her partner Aaron Hilton. The always lovely Emily Bromberg, dressed in red, was accompanied by Chase Swatosh, who later in his thigh-slapping, rhythmic solo seemed more low-key than usual.
The finale used the full cast of 24 dancers who were now monochromatically dressed in elegant black-and-white evening wear. As they danced, they appeared to merge into the same space as their silver screen companions. At times, couples partnered to echo the same fancy footwork as Astaire’s and Hayworth’s.
At other times, they paused to watch as if they had just recognized the famous couple, that is until Astaire and Hayworth made their exit waltzing through a set of glass doors just as the words THE END appeared on the screen. The whole light-hearted flair of romance in I’m Old Fashioned made me nostalgic for those times.
The Opus One Orchestra took a break during Christopher Wheeldon’s This Bitter Earth, which was choreographed to a soulful remix of Max Richter’s On the Nature of Daylight and Dinah Washington’s soulful 1960 hit with the same title, written by Clyde Otis. This presentation was an excerpt — a pas de deux — from a larger Wheeldon work called Five Movements, Three Repeats, which he created in 2012 for another company.
Bromberg, who was recently promoted to principal soloist, was partnered by principal dancer Rainer Krenstetter. Though it is questionable how well this somewhat short excerpt stood on its own in this program, it certainly served as a vehicle to sample the beauty of Wheeldon’s choreography as well as remind us how easily and comfortably the MCB dancers perform this style of contemporary ballet.
However, in this performance, Krenstetter, who was an able dancer and partner, seemed removed from the yearning quality of the slow, intertwined choreography. Both the choreography and music needed and deserved a more genuine interaction between the dancers but Bromberg’s lush movement and ability to beautifully transition in and out of her partnering was, as always, a pleasure to watch.
This duet was followed by another, Tschaikovsky Pas De Deux, one of George Balanchine’s most popular ballets. It was a light, joyful work which showed off the musicality and technical prowess of principal dancers Katia Carranza and Renan Cerdeiro.
The music that Balanchine used for this pas de deux has an interesting story. Peter Tchaikovsky composed it in 1877 for Swan Lake, but it was never used. Believed to have been lost, it was discovered more than half of a century later in the archives of the Bolshoi Theatre. Balanchine asked and received permission to use the 10-minute excerpt that was originally intended to be included in Act III of Swan Lake.
His lyrical pas de deux, which premiered in 1960, famously ends with a virtuosic fish dive where on Jan. 18, Carranza daringly flew through the air to be caught by Cerdeiro.
Closing the evening’s program was a major work created by Alexei Ratmansky, now touted to be today’s top ballet choreographer. The 39-minute ballet was named after Sergei Rachmaninoff’s last major orchestral work, Symphonic Dances, and it focused on capturing the intense emotional energy of the music.v Though the choreographer says that there is no story line in the three very different scenes that he created, each section was steeped in its own turbulent, non-linear sense of drama.
In the ballet Symphonic Dances, which MCB commissioned Ratmansky to make in 2012, the lighting recreation by Mark Stanley and the costume design by Adeline André effortlessly transported us to different worlds. Kleber Rebello and Renan Cerdeiro led us through the first section, which seemed seemed to take place in the past with a rural gathering of simple folk. It was visually more muted and choreographically more subdued than the following sections.
The second setting was almost surreal in its presentation. It showed a gathering of more privileged people interacting in a ballroom atmosphere. The women, glowing almost like fireflies in the dark, wore vivid-colored, cocoon-shaped tulle evening dresses as they darted around the stage conniving or plotting something mysterious.
The ardent collecting and dispersing of the 23 dancers in the third and last section had a more chaotic, almost revolutionary tone to it. A more modern time setting was achieved with a series of amber lights projected on a red scrim, which suggested industrial chimneys and served as a backdrop to the group of proletariat-looking dancers dressed in uniform-like costumes — simple shapeless tunics for the women and tops with hoods for the men.
The eye-catching performer and recent newcomer to the corps de ballet, Nina Fernandes, had one of the central roles in the work alongside soloists Jordan-Elizabeth Long and Ashley Knox. Fernandes is a most promising addition to the company’s roster which has had a large influx of new dancers in last season and a half.
The recollection that I kept from the last time I saw Symphonic Dances was that the stage visuals were strong and the choreography was dense. I also remember being perplexed about the three disconnected sections, which seemed overwrought and confused. Was this intentional or not?
I wanted to view Ratmansky’s work again to see if I could uncover an underlying structure in the work. After seeing it again, I realized I still had the same reaction. Though I was impressed with the intense energy and commitment the company dancers had poured into Symphonic Dances, I left the theater feeling disappointed that my response to the work hadn’t advanced with another viewing.