A Sinatra Valentine, a Promethean Nod from MCB
How many ways can a choreographer depict romance? At least nine. The weekend before the February 14th lovers’ holiday, Miami City Ballet unveiled Twyla Tharp’s “Nine Sinatra Songs,” which explores intimate connections within couples’ dancing, preceded by Paul Taylor’s heartily unromantic “Promethean Fire,” and “Scotch Symphony,” George Balanchine’s translation of the Romantic ballet “La Sylphide,” The three works that make up MCB’s Program III have moved on to the Kravis Center in Palm Beach this weekend, and will be at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts from March 11 to 13. Each of the seven couples within “Nine Sinatra Songs” performs a duet with a particular angle, accompanied by one of the crooner’s ballads. Three pair join forces for “My Way” as though gliding across a ballroom at the end of a long night, partners taking notice of only each other and staying inside their own stories as they traverse mostly in horizontal, parallel tracks. The song repeats for the all-skate closing as the dreamy, cold, sensual, shy, comfortable, playful, and fiery facets of love dance the band’s last call. The duet numbers, performed beneath the same disco ball and simple black curtain, transport viewers to other spaces including, perhaps, a Hollywood movie, a high school dance, and a private living room. Tharp uses numerous forms and rhythms of European and Latin ballroom with her daredevil partner work and signature musicality and athleticism. “Nine Sinatra Songs” premiered in 1982, but its statements remain as fresh as the dancing looks contemporary, staged by Elaine Kudo for the company, which is well-versed in the vocabulary of Tharp. Men in sharp tuxedoes and women in exquisite gowns by Haydée Morales based on the original designs of Oscar de la Renta take the vignettes back in time, while Tharp’s precise physicality brings the work up to speed. A few cast changes in “Scotch” and “Promethean” took place over the course of opening weekend in Miami, but the “Sinatra” couples stayed intact; some dancers benefited from three opportunities to perform the challenging work, while others were veterans in their roles. (MCB had its company premiere of “Sinatra” in 2004.) In “Softly as I Leave You,” the Fred-Astaire-smooth Renan Cerdeiro and starry-eyed Sara Esty finished their dance’s final sequence — a dense, complex sentence of dips, spins, and quick changes of direction — with ease on Sunday after being on the edge of overwhelmed by it the previous nights. The regal Callie Manning projected a formal distance from her partner, Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez, in “Strangers in the Night” as though their “bastardized Tango,” as Tharp has called it, were a dance to be shown and not felt. During “One for my Baby,” Jennifer Kronenberg and Yann Trividic kept their duet’s allusions to bedroom gymnastics classy. It seemed their onstage couple had known each other long and well; as Trividic dragged a folded-up Kronenberg along the floor and flipped her to standing, neither one looking the least bit troubled. https://artburstmiami.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/MCB-sinatra.jpgTharp heads for comic relief in “Somethin’ Stupid.” Tricia Albertson and Michael Sean Breeden played a nerdy, crushing couple equally eager to dance and awkward to each other’s touch. The pair approached slow dancing by both placing their hands on the other’s shoulders instead of the man taking the woman’s waist, and collided and stumbled between beaming smiles. Next, “All the Way” was all elegance as Haiyan Wu and Didier Bramaz portrayed a couple’s settled, mature love, taking pause within their dance for genuine embraces. Leigh-Ann Esty, almost swallowed by her ruffled hot pink dress, and Kleber Rebello, accented with a green cummerbund, lightened the mood once more in “Forget Domani,” whirling with the abandon of care-free romance. “That’s Life,” the work’s centerpiece, stole the show — more accurately, took it by rightful entitlement — each night. Katia Carranza and Renato Penteado made no divide between performing and being inside their choreography. The duet has been read as violent and misogynistic: the male shakes his partner as though she were a rag doll, then strokes her head while addressing the audience arrogantly and chewing gum. But Carranza looked so secure in her off-balance positions, heading to the floor for splits and back to supporting herself on one leg, and not only complicit in her expression but also powerful in the partnership, that one might think she were an equal shareholder. Twice she compels herself to fall sideways from standing, arms at her sides, as though commanding Penteado to scramble to catch her. At the end of their volcanic duet, the couple waltzes offstage, introducing the resolution “My Way.” This performance featured a different sort of principals for “Scotch Symphony.” Balanchine’s abstraction of a sylph-and-poet flirtation took on a dynamic during the matinee that was weighted toward the man. Albertson brought more warmth than trickery to Cerdeiro, who took focus with a face full of passion and a body poised with desire to possess the female apparition, plus clean technique and strong pirouettes. When leading him off stage (presumably, into the spirit realm) by the wrist, Albertson seemed to be saying “please,” as though acting in his best interest as well as her own. Still, it was an unbalanced love: Cerdeiro’s motivation seemed to come from inside himself, rather than from his fragile partner. Noteworthy throughout opening weekend were the “Scotch” men’s clear footwork and military organization in lines, and the strong ensemble work in Taylor’s resonant “Promethean Fire.” Catch this program if you can. This is a review of the last Program III performance at the Arsht Center on Sunday, February 13. Program III through March 6 at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in Palm Beach; www.kravis.org; then moving to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts from March 11 through 13; www.browardcenter.org. Or go to www.miamicityballet.org.