Dance review

Miami City Ballet powerful in Symphonic Dances, but shows cracks in Balanchine repertory


If you go

What: Miami City Ballet Program III

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Ziff Ballet Opera House, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

Tickets: $20-$175 at 305-929-7010 or

Symphonic Dances, the powerful ballet created by famed choreographer Alexei Ratmansky for Miami City Ballet, is the highlight of the troupe’s third program, and in its weekend performance at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, it was just as sweeping and musical as in its premiere last season, with eloquent new details emerging on second viewing.

However, the program, which will be performed beginning Friday at Miami’s Arsht Center, also revealed small but disconcerting signs of strain in two Balanchine ballets, works at the stylistic center of a company whose finesse with Balanchine has been a hallmark.

While Ratmansky doesn’t tell a story per se in Symphonic Dances, the ballet is fueled as much by drama and intrigue as it is by the grandiose Rachmaninoff score for which it is named. There are conflicts between doppelganger male and female pairs, among what seem like romantically shifting couples and between individuals and an overwhelming group.

Kleber Rebello adds authority and depth to his fiery impetuousness as an outcast figure, shadowed by Renato Penteado, who seems to both control and drive the younger Brazilian dancer. Jeanette Delgado is Rebello’s yearning counterpart, stalked by Tricia Albertson. In the piece’s dark, shifting flow, these pairs sometimes seem in romantic competition, struggling for power – or even different sides of a conflicted single person.

What seemed new on Friday night was the way the female corps also echoed Delgado’s movements in a shadowy ripple – like a watchful crowd or as if her emotions were reverberating through the group. Odd details emerged, like dancers scuttling on their behinds, that make Symphonic Dances seem less monolithic on second viewing.

Nathalia Arja was even more electrifying as a kind of diabolical sprite, and Chase Swatosh and Callie Manning stood out in a passionate duet. These moments surge up from a near constant swirl of movement, sweeping all 23 dancers together into a powerful finale. But Symphonic ends not with a crowd but with Arja hurling herself into Penteado’s arms as if shot from a gun, heroic and heedless, whooshing offstage with the music.

The opener was Balanchine’s pitch-black romance La Valse, in which an innocent girl (Tricia Albertson) abandons her elegantly proper partner (Carlos Miguel Guerra) and is seduced by death (Reyneris Reyes) at a ritualistic ball. It’s Edgar Allan Poe in the style of a 1950s Irving Penn Vogue photo spread, with a prologue for three fey fates (the fine Adriana Pierce, Suzanne Limbruner, and Maya Collins).

Delgado and Renan Cerdeiro stood out among three artful couples, and the corps danced with the precise drive we expect from MCB in Balanchine works. But the climactic seduction felt messy and unconvincing, with Reyes so uniformly menacing it was hard to understand why Albertson would be drawn to him.

Rebello was impressive in the title role of The Steadfast Tin Soldier, a Balanchine bauble based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, conveying both humor and yearning while sharply executing the difficult turns and jumps. Jennifer Lauren needed more stylistic delicacy and technical precision as the paper doll he falls for.

The shortcomings in Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, an exhilarating 1960 Balanchine showpiece that MCB has been dancing since its first concert in 1986, were disconcerting, with small but crucial hallmarks of the ballet absent from Mary Carmen Catoya and Renato Penteado’s performance. Perhaps this accomplished pair were simply having an off night, or weren’t in sync with the Opus One Orchestra. But they seemed to be racing to keep up with the music rather than being carried by its energy.

Catoya missed accents and phrasing — shading a spitfire series of passes with a barely perceptible slowdown, for example, or sharply ending full-tilt arabesques — that give the female variations their sense of daredevil playfulness. Penteado, meanwhile, was strained in his variations. A crucial tender moment, where Catoya looks happily up at Penteado from the bottom of a lift, seemed rushed. These are the kind of illuminating details that make Balanchine ballets magical, and their absence was keenly felt.

A previous version of this article misspelled Adriana Pierce.

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