Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dance review: MCB makes splendid showing in Kravis program

Miami City Ballet dancers in Baker’s Dozen.‭
(‬Photo by Kyle Froman‭)

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct factual errors.

By Rex Hearn‭

‬Twenty-five years can be like a lifetime for a ballet company.

First there were the early struggles with fundraising,‭ ‬performing without an orchestra,‭ ‬then‭ ‬finding the corps‭ ‬de ballet,‭ ‬the soloists,‭ ‬the prima ballerinas and the‭ ‬male danseurs.‭ ‬Plus administrators,‭ ‬ballet teachers,‭ ‬accountants and yes,‭ ‬even doctors specializing in bone injuries.‭

It‭’‬s exhausting,‭ ‬but the Miami City Ballet has overcome all these obstacles,‭ ‬and in this short space of time become one of the leading classical dance companies of America,‭ ‬and perhaps even the world.‭

‬As a‭ ‬16-year-old‭ ‬in England‭ ‬I saw the Sadler‭’‬s Wells Ballet with Margot Fonteyn and Robert Helpmann,‭ ‬then saw Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin at The Festival Ballet.‭ ‬I followed the fortunes of England‭’‬s newly formed Royal Ballet,‭ ‬where the men were challenged by asylum-seeker Rudolf Nureyev,‭ ‬and Dame Margot was given new life with his partnering.

Coming to America,‭ ‬I was fortunate to catch‭ ‬Edward Villella‭’‬s‭ ‬Prodigal Son,‭ ‬a performance that stays in my mind to this day.‭ ‬Now Villella heads this remarkable troupe,‭ ‬which he started at the invitation of Toby Ansin some‭ ‬25‭ ‬years ago.‭ ‬It is a great achievement in any man‭’‬s lifetime.‭ ‬In England,‭ ‬he‭ ‬would have been knighted for his‭ ‬efforts.‭

‬Miami City Ballet,‭ ‬a company I have watched over the years,‭ ‬has had an orchestra on and off for the first 25 years,‭ ‬but they were too good to be dancing to recordings.‭ ‬Thanks to the generosity of a three-year grant from the John S.‭ ‬and James L.‭ ‬Knight‭ ‬Foundation,‭ ‬they now have a first-class orchestra‭ (‬called Opus One‭) ‬of‭ ‬52‭ ‬players,‭ ‬and a fine conductor in Gary Sheldon.

Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra in La Sonnambula.‭
(‬Photo by Kyle Froman‭)

The program I saw Sunday at the Kravis Center included‭ ‬four short ballets.‭

First was‭ ‬La Sonnambula‭ (‬The Sleepwalker‭)‬,‭ ‬danced by Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg, a principal dancer since 2001. ‬Hers is a name to remember.‭ ‬With stunning features,‭ ‬her technique was flawless as she gracefully sped backwards en pointe, many times with candle in hand, delicately spun around by The Poet,‭ ‬danced by Yann Trividic,‭ ‬a fine,‭ ‬sensitive partner.

Amanda Weingarten‭’‬s Coquette was just that,‭ ‬coquettish.‭ ‬Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez was the commanding Baron.‭ ‬Outstanding were Tricia Albertson and Michael Sean Breeden in the‭ ‬Oriental Pas de Deux.‭ ‬And Kleber Rebello‭’‬s‭ ‬Harlequin was brilliant in his leaps,‭ ‬his‭ ‬splits and his fake crankiness. Newly promoted to the corps from company apprentice,‭ ‬he,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬is surely one to watch.

Applause greeted the corps de ballet in their beautiful costumes designed by Theoni Aldredge.‭ ‬Set design was by Zach Brown,‭ ‬and the music by Victor Rieti,‭ ‬based on themes by Vincenzo Bellini.‭ ‬And the smooth-as-silk choreography was by the late George Balanchine,‭ ‬Villella‭’‬s mentor and friend from the years he danced at New York‭ ‬City Ballet.‭

Mary Carmen Catoya and Kleber Rebello in‭ ‬Diana and Actaeon.‭
(‬Photo by Kyle Froman‭)

In stark contrast,‭ ‬Twyla Tharp‭’‬s exciting‭ ‬Baker‭’‬s Dozen brought‭ ‬12‭ ‬gifted youngsters on stage,‭ ‬dressed in white. This nonstop ballet,‭ ‬set to music by Willie‭ “‬The Lion‭”‬ Smith, had every move conceivable.‭ ‬Sheer delight shone from every dancer‭’‬s face as they teamed up for duets,‭ ‬trios,‭ ‬quartets and sextets.‭ ‬Everything was fresh,‭ ‬new and unique,‭ ‬which is what we expect from this brilliant choreographer.‭

Diana and Actaeon followed,‭ ‬a‭ ‬pas de‭ ‬deux danced by Mary Carmen Catoya and Rebello,‭ ‬the Harlequin from Sonnambula.‭ ‬Rebello astonished with magnificent leaps that made him seem to hang in air.‭ ‬With a great sense of timing,‭ ‬he is a strong,‭ ‬agile,‭ ‬athletic and graceful dancer,‭ ‬reminiscent of a young Villella.

Catoya,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬appeared ill-at-ease at times,‭ ‬and‭ ‬out of sync with the music.‭ ‬But when she was‭ “‬on,‭”‬ she was lovely. ‭

‬George Balanchine‭’‬s‭ ‬Western Symphony‭ ‬ended the program.‭ ‬It is said he got the idea to do a cowboy ballet from wearing string ties,‭ ‬frontier fashion.‭ ‬My bet is that he itched to lay down the gauntlet to Agnes DeMille's Rodeo, given‭ ‬years earlier with music by Aaron Copland.‭

Patricia Delgado and Yann Trividic in‭ ‬Western Symphony.‭
(‬Photo by Kyle Froman‭)

Choosing‭ ‬veteran Broadway orchestrator‭ ‬Hershy Kay to write a score based on tunes such as‭ ‬Good Night,‭ ‬Ladies and‭ ‬Red River Valley‭ ‬was smart.‭ ‬But‭ ‬Balanchine‭’‬s ballet doesn‭’‬t have the verve or excitement of‭ ‬DeMille’‬s work.‭ ‬It is more refined,‭ ‬more elegant,‭ ‬in the style of ballets at the court of the Sun King,‭ ‬Louis XIV.

‭ ‬In the‭ ‬Allegro,‭ ‬Tricia Albertson was superb.‭ ‬Didier Bramaz had great charm and winning ways in the‭ ‬Adagio.‭ ‬Pretty Zoe Zien did great point work in the‭ ‬Scherzo and Stephen Satterfield was her excellent partner.

In the finale of the‭ ‬Rondo,‭ ‬Kronenberg,‭ ‬the Sleepwalker of the first ballet,‭ ‬was very good once again.‭ ‬Her partner,‭ ‬Carlos Miguel Guerra,‭ ‬was light of foot and carefully attentive.‭ ‬Western Symphony ends with a magnificent,‭ ‬virtuosic display of company dancing,‭ ‬and on Sunday,‭ ‬it was disciplinary togetherness at its best.

Happy Silver Jubilee,‭ ‬MCB.‭ ‬And kudos to you,‭ ‬Sir Edward.‭

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