There was something for everyone, plus a flowery surprise, at Miami City Ballet’s 30th season opening performance Friday night. From the classic romanticism of George Balanchine’s condensed version of Swan Lake to the contemporary geometric fireworks of Viscera to the wonderfully witty theater of Fancy Free, the program at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Ziff Ballet Opera House offered a satisfyingly rich array of dance entertainment.
The surprise (Friday night only, sorry) was Balanchine’s version of the Garland Dance from Sleeping Beauty, featuring long lines of dancers and — to an audible “awwwww” from the audience — young girls from the company’s school. They wove an intricate, winding pattern of S-curves and intersecting circles around the stage, the adults in white and pale pastels with long full skirts, holding flowered arches overhead, while the children, in brighter colors, darted among them like well-choreographed butterflies. The girls, beaming with pride, looked ready to float right off the stage. It was a charming way to bring to life a line in artistic director Lourdes Lopez’s curtain speech. “We look back in tremendous pride,” she said. “And we look forward with tremendous hope.”
Balanchine distilled the original’s romance, tragedy, aching lyricism and his own sense of Tchaikovsky’s music for his one-act version of Swan Lake, which he created in 1951 and changed a number of times. It includes the “white” lakeside scenes where Prince Siegfried loves and loses Odette, the Swan Queen, largely based on Lev Ivanov’s original choreography; as well as new dances for ensembles and soloists to other Tchaikovsky music from the ballet and elsewhere. MCB first danced it in 2008.
Friday’s performance, which brought out a large contingent of young girls, gave South Florida audiences their first look at new principal dancer Simone Messmer, a former American Ballet Theater soloist. Messmer’s assurance and finish gave authority to her performance as Odette. She has a gorgeously articulated line and sculptural quality, out to her exquisitely molded hands, and an impressive technical facility shown in swooping penchées and backward arches into beautiful c-curves. Her Odette was regal, powerful, agonized. Yet she lacked an emotional and sensual vulnerability, a sense of fear, risk and yielding, so that we never felt her connect to her Siegfried, Rainer Krenstetter, and thus the tragedy of her death. Krenstetter, tall and long-legged, has an easy elegance and was a fine partner, but he seemed a bit low in passion for such an intense Swan Queen.
The corps, so crucial in this ballet, looked very good: sharp, unified and well-rehearsed. Jordan Elizabeth-Long led a group of eight, and Emily Bromberg, light and lovely, an ensemble of 11. Overall, this is a polished gem of a staging. Yet it also shares some of the same sharpness of Messmer’s performance, a lack of feeling for the music’s cascading flow and sheer loveliness. Some of this may have had to do with the overly even playing of the Opus One Orchestra, led by Gary Sheldon, which muted the music’s expressive range. And while John Hall’s lighting was appropriately dramatic, the shadows sometimes blurred the dancers.
Viscera, created for MCB four years ago by the young British choreographer Liam Scarlett, remains a bold and riveting vehicle for the company’s energy and personality. Set to Lowell Lieberman’s pell-mell Piano Concerto No. 1 (urgently played by pianist Francisco Renno), the dancers (in minimal, velvety magenta and dark blue costumes also designed by Scarlett) dart in bursting patterns, men tossing women on high, that make the stage seem to explode with fireworks. The absence of original soloist Jeanette Delgado, Scarlett’s muse, who is out with an injury, meant some loss of electricity. Sultry Patricia Delgado has a strong but more measured passion — she doesn’t center Viscera’s ricocheting energy with the laser intensity of Jeanette. Renato Penteado and Kleber Rebello were the elastic, leaping soloists. The chemistry between Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra filled the mysterious, off-kilter pas de deux that is Viscera’s emotional center; Kronenberg radiated a compelling gravity and depth.
The crowd-pleasing closer was Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, with Renan Cerdeiro, Rebello and Chase Swatosh as the irrepressible, girl-chasing WWII-era sailors on leave in New York. Rebecca King sparkled as the indignantly flouncing female who first attracts their attention, with Messmer as the redhead who dances a longing pas de deux with Swatosh. The three men executed Robbins’ marvelously observant, witty choreography very well. Blond and boyish Swatosh is a tad bland as the earnest guy who always gets stuck with the bar bill. Rebello shone in a gymnastic show-off solo, leaping off the bar, dropping into rag doll splits from double air turns. But it was Cerdeiro who was the most three-dimensional and appealing, with an unexpected gift for comedy; cocking one eyebrow and wiggling his behind in self-mockery, easing out of a quadruple spin with split-second ease. He was spontaneous and full of life, a regular guy magnified by movement.
If You Go
What: Miami City Ballet in Program I
When: Nov. 7-8 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale and Nov. 13-15 at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach
Where: Broward Center, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale; Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Boulevard, West Palm Beach
Tickets: $20 to $99, miamicityballet.org or 305-929-7010.