Miami City Ballet announces new season — and new 'Nutcracker'

Miami City Ballet’s Kleber Rebello and Nathalia Arja in a moment from Jerome Robbins’ “The Cage.”
Miami City Ballet’s Kleber Rebello and Nathalia Arja in a moment from Jerome Robbins’ “The Cage.”

Miami City Ballet has announced its 2017-2018 season, highlighted by a newly designed production of “George Balanchine's The Nutcracker” from Cuban-American designers Isabel and Ruben Toledo. A program devoted to the late Jerome Robbins, honoring his 100th birthday, will feature three company premieres from the great ballet and Broadway choreographer.

Also on tap are the MCB premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's "Concerto DSCH," bringing to three the number of works by the acclaimed Russian ballet maker in the company's repertoire, and a new piece commissioned from Brian Brooks, a Chicago modern dance choreographer.

The season opens with Balanchine's evening-length masterpiece "Jewels.” The troupe will present several other key ballets from the master neo-classicist so identified with MCB, including "Theme and Variations" and "Apollo."

The biggest news is the re-design of the 27-year-old "Nutcracker," the Tschaikovsky-scored holiday favorite, which features traditional 19th-century style sets and costumes, that has been a profitable and popular MCB staple. The new production is co-commissioned with The Music Center in Los Angeles, which will premiere it on Dec. 7, with the Florida premiere on Dec. 15 at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center. The Toledos will design new sets and costumes, while projection designer Wendall K. Harrington, responsible for the phantasmagoric projections in the under-the-sea production of Balanchine's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" last year as well as for those in the recent Ratmansky commission "The Fairy's Kiss," and lighting designer James F. Ingalls, will also contribute.

The three new Robbins pieces, all on Program II, will join a number already in the troupe's repertoire. The most unusual is "Circus Polka," which Robbins made for the New York City Ballet's 1972 Stravinsky Festival, casting himself as a ringmaster leading 48 little girl students at the company's school. (Stravinsky composed the score in 1942 for a dance Balanchine made for elephants and showgirls in the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus.) MCB will also add "Other Dances" an extended pas de deux which Robbins made for Russian superstars Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova, and "The Cage," a 1950 ballet where rapacious, insect-like females savage their male counterparts. Those ballets will join "In The Night," a rapturous series of pas de deux, and "West Side Story Suite," Robbins’ condensed version of the game changing Broadway musical he choreographed and directed.

The New York Times described Ratmansky's "Concerto DSCH," which he made for NYCB in 2008 and is set to a bright Shostakovich score, as brilliant, sweeping, and tender by turns. MCB will debut it on Program IV. But the biggest departure from the company's repertoire will likely be from Brooks, a contemporary dancemaker who recently became resident choreographer at Chicago's Harris Theater for Music and Dance, where he'll make new dances for a variety of companies, including MCB and his own. The Brooks piece will premiere on Program III.

"Jewels," which opens the season October 20 in Miami, established MCB's reputation as a center of the Balanchine legacy when founding artistic director Edward Villella first staged it in 1992, on the heels of Hurricane Andrew. For years it was the company's calling card. The 1967 ballet is a brilliant, richly layered work whose three parts are inspired by different gems and set to different composers: the lush "Emeralds," to Faure; the jazzy "Rubies," to Stravinsky; and the glittering "Diamonds," to Tschaikovsky.

Season subscriptions are available on the company's website, miamicityballet.org, or at 305-929-7010.