Review: MCB’s Points of Departure Season Closer
Any show that serves up Balanchine’s Raymonda Variations as appetizer and Jerome Robbins’ The Concert for dessert, with a world premiere by Justin Peck as the main dish, qualifies as a banquet. Featuring fine performances in these distinctive works, Miami City Ballet’s closing program of the season at the Arsht Center gave the audience no cause to go home hungry on Friday (it will continue in Broward April 17-19, 2015).
To musical nuggets Balanchine mined from a Glazunov opera, Raymonda Variations was a ballerina feast. A series of solos offered the tastiest bits of classical display: difficult balances, frisky jumps, the needlework of pointe steps. The dancers were a delight going from demureness to showgirl pizzazz in the final ensemble. Credit Kleber Rebello, the only guy in the mix, for coming through with the prowess of a champion athlete and the manner of a prince.
His finesse in execution bettered the bluebird from Sleeping Beauty, freeing this antecedent from its 19th-century cage. Jennifer Lauren ruled the roost with him, especially sharp in speed and foot beats. Zoe Zien, too, gave wing to her allegro, and others — including Leigh-Ann Esty, pliant to pizzicato, and Nicole Stalker in martial command — flocked by with airy impetus.
Good to have had such exacting classicism as reference during The Concert. The jocular suite to Chopin (company pianist Francisco Rennó teased grins from the ivories on stage) gave screwy turns to choreography: an out-of-sync ensemble, a gravity-defeated lift, squeezed formations. This spoofed the eccentricities of response to music, from silly rapture to goofball reveries projected in a parade of ballet clichés.
One segment skewered mechanical-doll narratives as ballerinas were lugged about like so much dead weight; another mocked Russian imperiousness in a tripped-up hussar strut; extreme literalness got its due as dancers in butterfly getups enacted a mating ritual worthy of an Animal Planet special gone berserk. Relationship foibles surfaced after glamour gal Jennifer Kronenberg — adding a little comic gem to the crown of her career — drew the lust of Carlos Guerra, who hunkered down hilariously, chomping on a stogie, as a henpecked hubby. Callie Manning as the wife was right on the funny bone with withering glares and a ready-to-strike spine that made the Queen of the Wilis look like a convent girl by comparison. Though in outlandish costumes for cartoon capers, the whole cast let us relish, between guffaws, their true wiles as artists.
Justin Peck’s Heatscape gave a view of what James Merrill in his poem “Mandala” refers to as “a whirlpool… at the heart of things.” So much visual excitement, coming from constant change with reiterations, was a rush. The choreographer’s intelligence, stirred by the three movements of Martinu’s first piano concerto (Gary Sheldon led the orchestra), structured sequences with quick moves and fluid assemblies that both absorbed and spit out individuals; all added up to a marvelously spinning construct: the carousel of life, Merrill would have called it.
Artist Shepard Fairey’s backdrop paralleled the ever-unfolding human drama with its seduction of sight. This bi-partite panoply of shapes in blunt colors — arabesques (not the ballet kind) at the center of a sunburst on top and a tall intricate border embracing a spirit bird at the bottom — energized the dancers as they started off facing the mural in a line and then scrambled to continue basking under it.
Their simple white and khaki costumes — phys. ed. uniforms really — insured clarity. In shifting light, noon-strong to dusky to a warm glow once more (the work of established Peck collaborator Brandon Stirling Baker), Fairey’s design could have reigned over a bustling 24 hours as much as over whole cycles of re-incarnation.
Patricia Delgado brought quite a bit of brightness herself to the first movement, planting exclamation points. Renan Cerdeiro radiated extensions and reached for the heights. Lifts here had a flyaway quality as if the dancers’ vigor was too much to contain. All the more reason why the group sometimes touched the floor and sat down as if to keep a claim on the blessed ground. In the adumbrated second movement, Tricia Albertson and Rebello shared a tender alertness for suspense: would togetherness last another day? As if to respond, Andrei Chagas, Jeanette Delgado, and Shimon Ito restored effusiveness — a reaffirmation of community — in the closing segment.
Due to a ballerina’s injury in Raymonda on Saturday, the order of presentation was changed to close with Heatscape — just as good for exiting on the high of its exuberant images. That night Emily Bromberg and Chagas led the opening movement, confirming how corps members in this company can perform at the keenest level.
As cast substitutes for the second movement, Jeanette Delgado and Chase Swatosh made the attenuated moments of their partnering, wistful in the shadows, beautiful beyond sunny interplay. In the last segment, Lauren, Michael Sean Breeden, and Ariel Rose bounded and bonded to form an exalted trinity, affirming the magical presence of threes in this work — from Martinu’s triplets to that number of men and women in several clusters.
As eye-catching as the feats of individuals came off here, ensembles delivered their own rewards with cumulative zeal. In the end, as in the beginning, all the dancers went to the backdrop and then ran toward us again: in this circle the runners change, but there’s no finish to the race.
Points of Departure Program 4 closes at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 5201 S.W 5th Ave., Ft. Lauderdale, April 17-19; for tickets and times, go to www.miamicityballet.org.