Under the enterprising leadership of Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez, Miami City Ballet has pressed forward by adding three company premieres to the 2017 season. But the program at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts on Friday night made one wonder if adding these old works — albeit new to the company — has merit, especially when Miami City Ballet unequivocally excels presenting newly commissioned works.
Serenade, nearly everyone’s favorite Balanchine ballet, fittingly opened MCB’s Program Two. Not the first work Balanchine created but the first he created in the United States, Serenade set the stage for the evolution of the Balanchine legacy at New York City Ballet.
From its first iconic tableau of a stage-full of beautiful women, caught in stillness with their right arms extended in an arrested wave and dressed in long powder blue tulle, to its last of a maiden carried high above the shoulder of the others, Serenade always warrants another viewing.
Masterfully choreographed to the exquisite music of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings (which was beautifully played by the Opus One Orchestra), there is always another moment to savor. On this viewing, my personal favorite moment was Emily Bromberg’s exalted arabesque rising over the fallen Tricia Albertson and magically rotated by Didier Bramaz.
Here and there, there could have been a little more unison in the corps de ballet’s port de bras but, on the whole, MCB has this one down. They always dance Serenade not only well but also with respect. Therefore it is always enjoyable to see it danced again with another cast showing off their talent.
The middle of the program offered two contrasting duets — Carousel Pas De Deux by Kenneth MacMillan and Calcium Light Night by Peter Martins. Out of the two, the first (which was adapted from the 1992 London revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical Carousel) seemed particularly out of sync with the artistic direction that MCB has been heading.
The story of a theatrical meeting of two lovers with a lone merry-go-round horse looking on, MacMillan’s Carousel Pas De Deux was not only quite conventional and also bit schmaltzy. The always beautiful Jennifer Lauren was all emotion and lyricism waiting for her man and Renan Cerdeiro was all passion and energy in their rendezvous until he suddenly ran off. Even though both danced expressively, the duet seemed incomplete and without purpose on its own.
MacMillan is one of Britain’s finest choreographers and known for his wonderful evening-length ballets. Perhaps this little pas de deux is just an appetizer for some more substantial MacMillan fare to come. Hopefully, one day the company will acquire one of his great ballets.
Calcium Light Night, the other duet, was a strong contrast to the dated and sentimental Carousel Pas De Deux. It is composed of a series of solos, first performed by a male dancer and then by a female dancer who come together to finish with a little partnering.
Set to eight short pieces by the American composer Charles Ives, Calcium Light Night was performed on a bare stage, stripped of curtains and under a large, suspended square frame made of strips of light. The dance was filled with challenging movement that was quirky and had little or no preparation to initiate the sharp and strong positions required to give the necessary clarity to this type of accented movement.
Calcium Light Night was Martin’s very first piece of choreography and its stripped-down look and in-your-face quality was new and adventurous at that time it was created in 1977 but seeing it now, it seemed to have lost its impact and just seems a little mundane.
Nevertheless, Kleber Rebello and the gamin Nathalia Arja both managed to give strong and precise performances of the ballet, working hard to engage the audience even though they both looked very small on the vast, black and empty Kravis stage.
Closing the program was the third company premiere, Glass Pieces, choreographed by Jerome Robbins in 1984 to music by Philip Glass, which unfortunately was plagued with several errors in the lighting cues causing the house lights to illuminate at various times during the dance.
The transition from Calcium Light Night with its individual solos danced on a black and bare stage to Glass Pieces, with its large-scale ensemble work danced in clean brightness, was effective. This mood change was accomplished by employing an enormous graph-paper backdrop, a pale gray dance floor and side curtains and a very large cast of 42 dancers. Dressed in brightly colored, layered dance clothes, the performers entered and immediately started moving with purpose, adroitly traversing and navigating the space like the pedestrian traffic on busy, urban streets.
In “Rubric,” the first section, three couples emerged out of the ever-moving crowd daring to move fully as they partnered, sleekly costumed in matching colored unitards, amidst the dense patterns being formed around them.
In the extremely slowed-down pace of the next section, “Facades,” a languid duet between Bromberg and Rainer Krenstetter unfolded in front of a long line of silhouetted women performing a simple, tight and repetitive traveling step which allowed us once to appreciate again the inherently lovely quality of Bromberg’s dancing and the elegance in Krenstetter’s.
In “Akhnaten,” the last section with its ritual drum sounds, Robbins’ choreography was monopolized by a roving band of 12 men whose movement had the look of a modern dance class from the 1980s but captured the same sense of drive that Glass’s operatic music possessed.