Ominous, splendid, melancholy and almost overwhelming, Euphotic, Liam Scarlett’s second dance for Miami City Ballet, surged onstage at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Ziff Ballet Opera House for the first time Friday night.
This new ballet is more ambitious than Viscera, the taut work that Scarlett created for MCB last season. With 28 dancers moving to Lowell Lieberman’s sweeping Piano Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra, Euphotic at times threatens to get too grand for its own good. But it succeeds through many of the same qualities that marked Scarlett’s talent the first time we saw it: explosive energy funneled into sharp form, physical daring, intensity. To this Scarlett, a 26-year-old talent who’s artist-in-residence at England’s Royal Ballet, adds a sweeping architecture and powerful emotional undercurrent.
The title is a Greek word that refers to the light on the surface of the water that creates photosynthesis. Scarlett was also thinking of the sun on the ocean, and light passing into deep water, imagery reflected in the costumes and sets, which he designed. Four towering rear panels are yellow at the top, shading down to white into dark blue, a color scheme also seen in the dancers’ costumes. Only lead couple Jeanette Delgado and Kleber Rebello are clad in bright yellow, flashing through the ballet like sun on the water. John Hall’s lighting is similarly shadowy and dramatic. Pianist Francisco Renno’s authoritative, passionate playing led a vigorous performance by the Opus One Orchestra, conducted by Gary Sheldon.
Euphotic’s four dense sections are highlighted by moments of stillness. Early on, Delgado and Rebello stand close together, staring into each others’ eyes while a mass of dancers surge around them, as if gathering force before the two of them explode into ferocious, flying action. Scarlett sets Delgado on fire — with Rebello, he gives her a partner who doubles the heat. They fuel each other, particularly on the spectacular, daring lifts that are a highlight of Euphotic.
In the second section, four men lift and toss Sara Esty — transformed here from sweet to imperious — perilously high. In the pensive third section, Yann Trividic and Carlos Miguel Guerra lift Patricia Delgado through a series of spiraling lifts, like a twisting slow motion flight. Later they lift her high while the other dancers swirl around her. The physical daring adds to the drama. That can tip over into melodrama at times — the dance is nearly unrelenting in its intensity. The dark surging backdrop of the ensemble dances can occasionally feel inchoate. But Euphotic’s force overcomes these faults; it finishes powerfully, with a sense of poignancy and of terrible splendor.
The program, which opened with Balanchine’s sparkling Divertimento No. 15, also included Balanchine’s enigmatic, poetic Duo Concertant. Renan Cerdeiro and Patricia Delgado were the fiery, elegant pair inspired by Renno and violinist Alla Krolevich, who play Stravinsky’s Duo Concertant for Violin and Piano onstage. The dancers listen intently, then respond — playfully, or with crackling speed — and their attention makes us more aware of the music and its intimate, living connection to the dancing. Mary Carmen Catoya’s moxie (and balances and flashing turns) were back in full glory for the Don Quixote pas de deux, with a stalwart Renato Penteado as her partner.