Complexity, speed, and romance – the three dances on Miami City Ballet’s second program of the season featured each in succession. As well as a different kind of clarity and grace in their dancing, which came at the expense of some of their former power and personality.
Friday evening’s show at the Sanford Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center was a substantial and richly varied one. The ballets were all drawn from the company’s repertory, and thus provided a way to compare the troupe’s past and present style of dancing.
The opener was George Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements, a monumental work named for its Stravinsky music, the composer’s thunderous response to World War II. Movements combines massive power with edgy rhythm and dizzying intricacy – it’s a marvelous machine of a dance, and has been one of MCB’s most treasured achievements in the Balanchine canon.
On Friday it looked terrifically sharp visually: the lines of white leotard-clad women who sweep the stage in intersecting lines, like an advancing army; or the slashing gestures of the ensemble, slicing the air with military precision; were perfectly precise and clear. Kleber Rebello, newly lean and authoritative, stood out among the three male soloists, as did a flashing Nathalia Arja, and Patricia Delgado, who combined a bold, thrusting angularity with a sinuous femininity.
Missing from both dance and music, however, was the urgency and edge that previously marked MCB’s performances of this ballet and give Movements its power. The orchestra, led by Gary Sheldon, muted the music’s unsettling dynamics and jagged rhythms. The dancing was also smoothed over; the snapping intensity, the sharp accents that made the movement pop with clarity and explode with energy, that make Movements surge with desperation and defiance, are largely gone. Movements looked beautiful, but it has lost much of its dark soul.
That cleanliness and technical precision, however, served modern dance choreographer Paul Taylor’s Mercuric Tidings – which MCB hasn’t done since 2008 – well. Led by Rebello and Tricia Albertson, the 14 dancers sped confidently through this exhilarating, blisteringly fast dance. Sheldon led the orchestra in a breakneck rendition of the joyous Shubert music, and Santo Loquasto’s flame-red leotards and trunks emphasized the illusion of bodies on fire – dancers skimming the stage with slashing runs, swooping into beautifully shaped, arching lunges. Their clean energy largely made up for any deficiencies in the sense of weight and the more idiosyncratic, sideways movements that mark this Taylor piece. Rebello was elegant and fervent, matched by Albertson, who since last season has been dancing with a new expressiveness and depth. Other standouts were Callie Manning, in an elegiac adagio trio, and a darting Zoe Zien.
The closer, Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs, is reliably popular, with its swoony Sinatra songs, glamorous Oscar de la Renta costumes, and blend of romance and humor for seven couples. The audience loved it, giving a standing ovation. But MCB’s strengths and shortcomings in Sinatra Songs, which they’ve done for a decade, were both heightened on Friday. On the up side, they dance it with assurance and luxurious smoothness, as in the swirling, impulsively romantic "Softly As I Leave You" with Albertson and Renan Cerdeiro, or Mary Carmen Catoya and Reyneris Reyes’s elegant sensuality in "All the Way."
But even in these, Tharp’s quirky dynamics, the contrast and details that give each couple their own emotional and kinetic character, tended to flatten into a silky, glamorous sameness. Best were Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg and Carlos Miguel Guerra, in the loopy, unexpected intimacy of "One For My Baby (and One More For the Road)" and the satirical "That’s Life," with Renato Penteado as a swaggering macho slinging a fearlessly (or foolishly) passionate Jeanette Delgado.
If you go
What: Miami City Ballet Program II
When: 8 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sunday at the Adrienne Arsht Center; Jan. 23 to 25 at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach; Feb. 6 to 8 at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Where: Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; Broward Center, 201 Southwest 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale; Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach
Info: $25 to $97; 305-929-7010 or miamicityballet.org