Dance review

Miami City Ballet delivers fierce, fresh ‘West Side Story Suite’


If you go

Miami City Ballet Program III repeats Feb. 21-23 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale and Feb. 28-March 2 at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach; , 305-929-7010.

Fierce and fresh, Miami City Ballet claimed the vibrant territory of musical theater for its own Friday night with the company debut of West Side Story Suite at the Adrienne Arsht Center.

The dancers are not quite the proverbial Broadway triple threat, but the conviction, energy and aplomb of their dancing and overall performance made up for any shortcomings in acting and singing, making this suite of dances from Jerome Robbins’ legendary musical a satisfyingly rich experience.

Robbins staged WSS Suite to leave out the story, almost all the dialogue and many songs, so our sense of the ballet depends largely on knowing the original. Mental comparisons with the movie – the version most people know — are inevitable. But it’s still a thrill to see MCB’s dancers bring much of this show to life.

Jeremy Cox, as Riff, and Reyneris Reyes, as Bernardo, lead their Jets and Sharks in the opening Prologue, taunts building to flying tackles as the dancers dart on and off and at each other (it’s exhilarating to see the men running full tilt in sneakers). Cox’s taut pugnacity is right, but his expression often seems frozen in a kind of grimace, a tension that seemed to choke off his voice when he sang Cool. Reyes’ edgy reserve mostly works for Bernardo, but he could unleash more menace.

The "Dance at the Gym" was exhilarating, with Jeanette Delgado incandescent as Anita, swirling and stomping with the kind of aplomb that would be arrogant if it weren’t so joyfully natural. She’s no Broadway belter, but leading the Puerto Rican women in America, Delgado etched the song’s sharp accents and mocking lyrics, matching them with riotously swishing hips and arching body that made it hard to believe she’s ever been in a tutu. She eclipsed every other woman on stage.

Other standouts were the marvelously feral Andrei Chagas and a laser-intense Renan Cerdeiro in the Sharks, and the Jets’ brash Michael Sean Breeden and Didier Bramaz, jittering to bits in Cool. Jennifer Kronenberg, as Riff’s girlfriend, Graziella, was a proudly stalking adolescent queen.

The Opus One Orchestra, led by Gary Sheldon, played with the right jumpy verve, with singers Michelle Caravia, Marinel Cruz, Andrew Dahan and Marcela Penaranda rendering the ballads Something’s Coming and Somewhere.

The lyric and dramatic segments were less effective than the more dynamic numbers. Chase Swatosh, as Tony, and Patricia Delgado, as Maria, danced with sweet, open grace, but without convincing romantic passion. The closing “Somewhere Ballet,” with the cast uniting in a bucolic fantasy meadow, is not nearly as powerful as the original, tragic ending.

The program opened with another noteworthy company premiere, Balanchine’s 1959 ballet Episodes. Set to Anton von Webern’s sparse, atonal orchestral music and full of unorthodox, even startling lifts and stark geometry, it is one of Balanchine’s most challenging and intriguing works.

MCB re-inserted a rare, riveting, idiosyncratic solo created by Balanchine for modern dancer Paul Taylor for the New York City Ballet premiere, which the company has only staged once since. The part went to the dynamic young Brazilian dancer Jovani Furlan, who carved up the space with curving torso, spiraling limbs and deep, spiderlike squats, moving with a powerful sense of volume and gravity rare for a classical dancer. Also striking was Patricia Delgado’s luxuriant way of filling out the elaborate, circling gymnastics of her pas de deux with Renato Penteado.

Finally, Nathalia Arja and Cerdeiro had just the right vivacious spirit and spritely virtuosity for Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. Arja’s charm and daring were a pleasure; it was another standout featured performance for a corps de ballet dancer who deserves a promotion.

Read more Jordan Levin stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category