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A demanding program but More is Less

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
01/12/2018 -  & January 13, 14*, 2018
Circus Polka – The Cage
Jerome Robbins (Choreography), Igor Stravinsky (music)
Other Dances – In the Night
Jerome Robbins (Choreography), Fryderyk Chopin (music)
West Side Story Suite
Jerome Robbins (Choreography), Leonard Bernstein (music)
Jennifer Lauren, Kleber Rebello, Jordan-Elizabeth Long, Chase Swatosh, Katia Carranza, Renato Penteado, Tricia Albertson, Lauren Fadderly, Bradley Dunlap, Reyneris Reyes, Simone Messmer, Renan Cerdeiro, Jovani Furlan, Ellen Grocki, Helen Ruiz, Leanna Rinaldi (Principal Dancers and Soloists), Miami City Ballet corps de ballet with soloists and principals and Miami City Ballet students
Francisco Rennó, Ciro Fodere (Pianists), Opus One Orchestra, Beatrice Jona Affron (Guest Conductor)
Liam Scarlett, Anthony Dowell, Haydée Morales (Costume Design), John Hall, Jennifer Tipton (Lighting Design)

Circus Polka: L. Lopez and ballerinas (© Alexander Iziliaev)

With such a large program it is hard to know where to begin evaluating; I guess at the beginning with Circus Polka. This is one of those works that one may have read about but is not a natural to be included in any program. So for Miami City Ballet to offer it is something for which ballet lovers must feel particularly grateful. It is a short curtain raiser where the Ringmaster (originally Robbins, at this performance Miami City Ballet’s artistic director, Lourdes Lopez) organizes and controls the dancers. The dancers here are young potential ballerinas – the oldest group in blue, the next in green and the youngest in red. Perhaps the choreography is not particularly demanding but it is perfect for the ballet’s purpose. When it finishes the groups have fallen into place to spell out “J. R.”. in honor of the master we are celebrating. Here less is more.

After this rousing opening is the elegant and sensitive In the Night which shows various elements of passion between couples. Chopin’s nocturnes, played with delicate intensity by Ciro Fodere provide the score. It might seem simple, tending to be quiet in tone, but to deliver it with such precision, subtlety and command is a giant achievement, nothing heavy-handed here. Thank you, Jerome Robbins, the audience’s enthusiastic response showed they understood.

The next section of the program began with The Cage, maybe Robbins’ most atypical ballet. It is not difficult to interpret. A culture (perhaps insects) demonstrates its rites of passage for a new potential leader. The newcomer, Tricia Albertson, finds herself caught between the demands of her colony and the feelings she is developing for the culture’s males whom she must kill; a challenging work whose power is unfairly diminished. A ballet of such seriousness followed by a short pause does not give the audience the opportunity for much needed digestion. It also doesn’t allow us to concentrate fully on the next piece Other Dances, performed beautifully by Simone Messmer and Renan Cerdeiro. Such committed artists deserve our full attention.

The opportunity to honor Robbins is tremendous. Ballet enthusiasts feel fortunate for such a program. But why not offer more of his works on upcoming programs throughout 2018 than overstuff this one. A great company deserves more careful planning.

West Side Story Suite concluded the program and undoubtedly nothing was more anticipated. I noticed that the audience size grew before it began and assume it means many came solely for this work.

After what we as Americans have experienced recently, its power is timeless. I am sure that the audience’s reaction was never stronger. This work, like The Cage (Stravinsky) is strong and does not offer Opus One Orchestra’s guest conductor, Beatrice Jona Affron, the chance to offer much subtlety; thankfully she didn’t.

Miami City Ballet’s program makes it evident that the world of dance, be it in the theatre or film, owes a thank you to Jerome Robbins that cannot be fully expressed. The company has many of his works in its repertoire and with this program we have three more. Let’s hope to find the rest that are unknown and to revisit others in his much loved canon of genius.

Jeff Haller



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