Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dance review: 'Symphony' provides much-needed spark at MCB

Carlos Guerra and Jennifer Kronenberg
in Symphony in Three Movements. (Photo by Joe Gato).


By Sharon McDaniel


For a season opener, Program I seemed a bit tame.

Friday’s performance at the Kravis Center, heralding the start of Miami City Ballet’s 24th year, was remarkably low-key: No sets, for one thing. And of course, in these lean times, again no orchestra.

And no new repertoire. Two ballets, from the midpoint of George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet career, announced a short, highly romantic and soloist-oriented Part I: Allegro Brillante (1956), which featured Jeanette Delgado and Rolando Sarabia; and Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux (1960) with Mary Carmen Catoya and Renato Penteado.

Two longer, more modern ballets – Paul Taylor’s Company B (1991) and Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements (1972) – corralled larger forces for more company-focused Parts II and III.

In Allegro, it was easy to notice Jeanette Delgado’s substantial development as a soloist just since last season. Her spirited work in Tchaikovsky’s long piano cadenza (from the Piano Concerto No. 3) was not only graceful but precise. She more than held the stage in an impassioned role that is practically nonstop. But the four couples of the corps struggled against the music, unable to match its fiery speed or drama. Toward the finale, they finally settled in as an ensemble – even rose to the occasion.

In the Tschaikovsky Pas, Renato Penteado showed a grace and consciousness of line that beautifully mirrored Mary Carmen Catoya. It was a visual reminder that his role is one made famous by artistic director Edward Villella. Well-matched in strength and depth, Catoya and Penteado convinced you to take in every lovely detail, even when Catoya missed a rhythmic mark (though Penteado never did).

Company B can be great fun, a retro romp of bobby-soxer skirts, Andrews Sisters’ pop tunes and swinging '40s social dances. Tico Tico soloist Alex Wong, and Daniel Baker as the Boogie- Woogie Bugle Boy, burned up the floor with fine, high-stakes athletics and a great feel for jazz. Daniel Sarabia (Oh Johnny Oh Johnny) and Jeanette Delgado (Rum and Coke) ratcheted up the humor and sex appeal.

Soloists notwithstanding, Miami City Ballet seemed too inwardly focused in Company B. Too little energy flowed outward into the hall or even beyond the stage. And the ensemble’s pulse slowed despite the ballet’s upbeat tempos. Moments of beauty and the occasional picture-perfect snapshot could be enticing, but vanished in a flash. Even the Daddy-o coolness of Company B could be, well, lukewarm.

The only thing white-hot was Symphony in Three Movements. From the sizzling start to the spit-and-polish finish, all 32 dancers made you sit up and take full notice. The company’s enormous output of energy rose to levels more associated with past milestones or gala celebrations. This crackle of electricity made Symphony the evening’s game-changer.

Of course, there’s some history here. The company performed this ballet in January accompanied for the first time by the renowned Cleveland Orchestra. Still, it was surprising how far Friday’s performance of Symphony surpassed everything else on the program.

In Symphony, the dancers had something they wanted to say and spoke out with brilliant clarity. They were more than equal to the driving, spiky outbursts of the Stravinsky masterpiece, the ballet’s namesake. Of the three leading couples, Jennifer Kronenberg with Carlos Guerra and Tricia Albertson with Alex Wong were the intriguing characters woven throughout this plotless ballet. But everyone – from the 10 demi-soloists to the corps of 16 ballerinas, made this ensemble piece tick like clockwork.

The Kravis audience, although responsive in the previous ballets, gave Symphony an extended ovation. You have to wonder, though: Given the regrettable loss of Marie Hale’s Ballet Florida, it’s surprising that Miami City Ballet, now the only game in town, didn’t attract a larger crowd of dance fans Friday night.

The Miami City Ballet presents this program again today at 1 p.m. at the Kravis Center. Tickets range from $19 to $169. Call 832-7469 or 1-800-572-8471 or visit www.kravis.org.

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