Dance

Review: Miami City Ballet Showcases Love in ‘Modern Masters’

Written By Sean Erwin
February 15, 2023 at 1:05 PM

Katia Carranza and Steven Loch in Martha Graham’s “Diversion of Angels” from Miami City Ballet’s “Modern Masters,” which continues its run in Broward and Palm Beach counties after premiering at the Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami. (Photo courtesy of Alexander Iziliaev).

A program pairing of two titans of 20th-century dance with two 21st-century up-and-comers showcased the versatility of Miami City Ballet’s dancers in the company’s second program of the season.

Miami City Ballet’s “Modern Masters” opened on Friday, Feb. 10 at the Adrienne Arsht Center with shows on Saturday, Feb. 11 and Sunday, Feb. 12, with the choreography of Martha Graham and José Limón and new works by Amy Hall Garner and Pontus Lidberg.

Versed in the technique of choreographer George Balanchine, the MCB dancers showed great flexibility adapting to very different schools of modern dance technique.

Miami City Ballet dancer Rui Cruz in the world premiere of Amy Hall Garner’s “Resplendent Fantasy.” (Photo courtesy of Alexander Iziliaev)

Set to music by Norman Della Joio, a company premiere of Martha Graham’s “Diversion of Angels”  opened the evening with a work for eleven dancers.   It first premiered at Connecticut College in 1948 with the original title, “Wilderness Stair.”

The choreography unfolded through vignettes that featured three couples –  Dawn Atkins (dressed in white) and  Chase Swatosh, Katia Carranza (in red) and Steven Loch, and Juliet Hay (in yellow) paired with Ariel Rose.

Each couple represented a different aspect of love with white for mature love, red for romantic love and yellow for young love.

The piece opened with MCB principal Chase Swatosh standing behind principal soloist Dawn Atkins.  Swatosh raised his arm then brought his hand behind Atkins’ head making a halo of his fingers.  In response, Atkins raised her left arm straight overhead.

Miami City Ballet Principal soloist Dawn Atkins and Principal Chase Swatosh as the “Couple in White” in Martha Graham’s “Diversion of Angels.” (Photo courtesy of Alexander Iziliaev)

The two formed a sculptural centerpiece as the other dancers circled them.  The men entered at a run – bare chested with beige pants – then stopped dead on one leg, leaning forward, left hands scooping the air.

The women joined them in brown skirts, hopping and skipping across the stage, arms overhead.

The movements of the men and women had a tribal feel that contrasted sharply with the Hellenic-like pose struck by Atkins and Swatosh, a tension the work would sustain throughout.

Each of the couples wonderfully brought to life the different kinds of love they represented.

For instance, the duet between Juliet Hay and Ariel Rose in the role of “young” love showcased delightfully breathless chase sequences that featured Hay equal parts frantic and playful, arms flailing, legs kicking even as Rose scooped her overhead.

Next up was choreographer José Limón’s, “The Moor’s Pavane,” which first premiered at Connecticut College in 1949.

Premiered by Miami City Ballet in 1988, Limón’s work is loosely based on Shakespeare’s 1603 play, “Othello.”

Both the play and the choreography relate the tragedy caused by a husband’s jealousy that leads him to kill his blameless wife on suspicions fueled by a treacherous friend.

From left, Miami City Ballet dancers Hannah Fischer and Chase Swatosh, Steven Loch and Katia Carranza in José Limón’s, “The Moor’s Pavane.” (Photo courtesy of Alexander Iziliaev)

Limón organized the choreography in the form of a “pavane” – a form of Renaissance court dance.  The use of this structure created tension during the piece as powerful emotions churned beneath a façade of courtly courtesies.

Steven Loch as “The Moor,” Chase Swatosh as “His Friend,” Hannah Fischer as “His Friend’s Wife,” and Katia Carranza  as “The Moor’s Wife,” were each astonishingly powerful in their respective roles on Friday.

Swatosh saturated his performance of the traditional Iago role with duplicity as he disarmed Lochs’ barely contained rage and desperation with a submissive bow or glance.

The Opus 1 Orchestra, under the direction of conductor and Artistic Director Gary Sheldon, marvelously handled the demands of Baroque composer Henry Purcell’s score.

Next were two world premieres from contemporary choreographers Garner and Lidberg.

Miami City Ballet dancers in the world premiere of Pontus Lidberg’s “Petrichor.”(Photo courtesy of Alexander Iziliaev)

“Resplendent Fantasy” is the second MCB commission from Garnger, a Huntsville, Alabama native. The first was the 2021 digital premiere of “ViVa.”

“Resplendent Fantasy” is a high energy, flowing, three part work for five dancers set to music from composer Oliver Davis’ “Infinite Ocean,” Jonathan Dove’s “Piano Quintet” and Komitas’s “Krunk.”

Beautiful costuming dressed the women in peacock blue and scarlet dresses for the women and the men in silvery gray pants and blue tops.

In the first movement, Mayumi Enokibara – her arms circling – picked her way en pointe across the stage.  She was followed by Ellen Grocki pivoting in chainé turns before flowing through lunges.

Garner built sequences with an emphasis on balletic steps but embellished them with quirky turns of wrists and ankles or unexpected body twists.

This was especially the case in the splendidly danced final movement marked by Rui Cruz who entered with a powerful leap then glided across the stage, kicking to accents in the violin solo.

The evening closed with the world premiere of Swedish-born Lidberg’s “Petrichor.”

Miami City Ballet dancers, principal soloists Hannah Fischer and Chase Swatosh in José Limón’s “The Moor’s Pavane.” (Photo courtesy of Alexander Iziliaev)

The title is composed of the two Greek words for stone and ichor and refers to the scent of the earth when rain falls on dry soil.

Set to Philip Glass’ iconic three movement first “Violin Concerto,” the 25-minute piece for ten dancers makes free use of digital technology effects.

As the dancers executed their sequences, the back scrim bled shades of dark gray like a spreading ink stain and suffused much of the action on the stage with a strong sense of foreboding.

In the second movement, the scrim darkened to black during the duet between Cameron Catazaro and principal Katia Carranza.  Carranza seemed to absorb the black mood melting languidly over the arms of Catazaro or spreading motionless on the floor.

With the last movement, the scrim glowed with greens and reds and the heaviness of the dancing vanished with sequences full of energy and the women repeatedly running at the men who scooped them overhead.

The work ended a few times.  First, the dancers formed a “V” then morphed into a pyramid before finally closing with principal Nathalia Arja, her back to the audience, glancing over her shoulder then walking toward the front as the curtain closed.

Miami City Ballet’s “Modern Masters” continues with performances through March 5 at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

WHAT: Miami City Ballet’s “Modern Masters” 

WHERE, WHEN:  7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb 17, 18; 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb 18; 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb 19, Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach

7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 5, Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale

COST: $39, $40, $79, $115, $189, depending on showtime and venue. 

INFORMATION: 305-929-7010 or miamicityballet.org

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