The integral element of any ballet performance is the interaction with both the conceits of the norm but also pushing the boundaries to make sure the presentation itself provides new insight but also a riveting experience in what it is portraying. While many an arts goer in their earlier years have no doubt been influenced by the methodic elements of “Black Swan”, this does not and even seems to strengthen the idea of how much discipline and will power it necessitates to achieve these strikingly adept movements.
The first aspect of PROGRAM III Triple Threat, which was part of the February 14th gala at the Archst Center in Downtown Miami for the Miami City Ballet, was entitled “Episodes” which is a new company premiere work by George Balanchine. Working with a more abstract milieu and using light and shadow to enhance both composition as well as mood, the dancers create a balanced rhythm of movement that slips through in a sense of rallying exactness. While the 4 couples dancing at the beginning definitely show the intensity of various shapes, it was two shadow-based excerpts later in the segment using pools of light that made the most impact. One is seemingly two women dancing and following each other in the dark, one in white, one in black as their bodies intertwine, become disjointed and then reunite again. The another is of a male dancer in white almost contorting like a bug with graceful dance moves unearthing both a hardship and a sereneness. The ending large scale of 12 women on stage to one man closes out this aspect of the program with fanfare but not as much raw emotion as the two before.
The second part of the program “Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux” is more conventional in the texture of its progression with the music reflecting the structure. Whereas “Episodes” retained an almost alien sense of mystery, the energy here is vibrant but not overdone. Using the entire stage as an essence of their physicality, both the male and female dancer, solo and in duet perfectly structure the necessities of ballet combining form with a sense of passion
The third part was a departure from normal ballet fare in the aspect of “West Side Story Suite” which Jerome Robbins (who had been a mentor of current artistic director Lourdes Lopez during her time at the New York City Ballet) created as an extension of the musical and film of the same name. While the staging is exactly as much of the film, it is always interesting to see the difference between actors who dance and dancers who act. The “Dance at the Gym” is energetic but so pinpoint in its accuracy that you could almost see the camera which would film it. “Cool” was a little more loose fitting but precise since the orchestra seemed to really get into the swing of the suite at just that moment. The story progression is of course different from the aspect of the film. The “Somewhere” finale especially with the singing of the dancers did give its conclusion an ethereal feel.
With guest honoree George Chakiris who won the Oscar in “West Side Story” for playing Bernardo, the Miami City Ballet bridges the gap between artistic expression and pop culture by programming an interesting triumvirate: One an abstract piece with forward thinking. One a vibrant more conventional piece. And, finally, a personification normally outside a ballet dancer’s comfort zone which allows the company to flex all of its muscles.
By Tim Wassberg