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Diversity, thy name is Miami City Ballet

Broward Centre for the Performing Arts, Fort Lauderdale
01/24/2014 -  & January 24, 25*, 26, 2014
George Balanchine: Concerto Barocco (music by Johann Sebastian Bach)
Justin Peck: Chutes and Ladders (music by Benjamin Britten)
Nacho Duate: Jardi Tancat (music by Maria del Mar Bonet)
Alexei Ratmansky: Symphonic Dances (music by Sergei Rachmaninoff)

The Miami City Ballet
Opus One Orchestra, Gary Sheldon (conductor)
Nacho Duato (scenic designer), Justin Peck, Nacho Duato, Adeline André, Istvan Dohar (costume designers), John Hall, Nicholás Fischtel, Mark Stanley (lighting designers)

(© Mark Elias)

The centerpiece on this program is a 30-year-old work that is new to Miami City Ballet. Yet it feels fresh. Jardi Tancat (“Closed Garden”) is performed to Catalan folksongs. Three couples, probably farmworkers, enact their struggles with the land and their love for each other. The movement by Nacho Duate does not have a classical look; instead there is purity with almost severely angular athleticism most noticeable in flexed feet. Members of the company corps approach this work with an uncommon confidence as each offers a distinguished personality. There is naturally a very Spanish flavor for the music and choreography and to an American it might be best identified as a Catalan Appalachian Spring. Undoubtedly many found this work quite moving and its addition to the repertoire is welcome and long overdue.

The other addition to the repertoire, Justin Peck’s Chutes and Ladders, has been reworked to fit a proscenium stage; it premiered on the thrust stage at the New World Center in 2012. It is a sprightly pas de deux with the musicians performing onstage to the first movement of Benjamin Britten’s String Quartet No. 1. A man and woman communicate in a playful though serious manner. It sometimes even has a rather odd look though this is meant as praise. The dance feels original and Sara Esty and Renan Cerdeiro exhibit a special chemistry that maintains the audience’s intense focus.

The bookends on this program have a lot to say. Once again we are treated to Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco danced to Bach’s Concerto in D minor for two violins, BWV 1043. It is a plotless work where the dance exists simply to interpret the music. The music and the dance feel so entwined here that it is not strange to imagine that Bach was working with Balanchine on commission in some alternate universe. The leads of this ballet, no matter how great they perform, are not the dancers we most notice. In fact the male does little more than just act as partner, his choreography is particularly ungenerous. It is the corps that is the star here and as always, Miami City Ballet’s troupe is not only technically precise and unrelievedly energetic but loaded with self-assurance and character.

Though it has been stressed that Alexei Ratmansky’s Symphonic Dances is also plotless, I doubt that few in the audience would regard it that way. It is rife with human emotion and drama, not just the movement but right down to the costumes and lighting. This work premiered just two years ago and one can’t help wishing Ratmansky would please go back and fix the last section. Rachmaninoff is not like Bach, so to choreograph in an understated manner here would be a disastrous bore. Something about this ballet always feels undernourished. The last movement, though thrilling in speed, seems to have no direction or purpose.

So: four works by four different choreographers with lots of different styles and interesting musical selections played by the great Opus One Orchestra under the direction of Gary Sheldon. It doesn’t get more rewarding than this.

This program will be repeated at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach on January 31 through February 2, 2014.

Jeff Haller



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