DANCE REVIEW: Miami City Ballet closes Jacob’s Pillow 90th anniversary season | Berkshire landscapes
BECKET — Miami City Ballet’s Wednesday opening night dance at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival was almost universally sublime. Sure, there were angels — in Martha Graham’s ‘Diversion of Angels’ and George Balanchine’s ‘Serenade’ — and there were ghosts — in ‘Geta,’ Margarita Armas’ tribute to a beloved teacher. recently deceased, and in ‘Jerome Robbins’ Ancient Epigraphs’, in which it seems that figures immortalized on Greek vases take on floating and fantastical life. The company also brought in a small orchestra – finally breaking the seal on the new “pit” added during renovations to the Ted Shawn Theater – adding frosting to this angel food cake.
Surely one of the signs of a dance company’s exceptionalism is when it performs, as this company does, “legacy” repertoire in a way that gives the works an appearance of freshness. Aside from “Geta,” the youngest of the other dances on the program — Robbins’ 1984 “Antique Epigraphs” — is nearly 40 years old. Directed for the company by Christine Redpath, this enigmatic piece for eight women is subtly scented with a potpourri of accents (spirit, eroticism, ritualism, mischief, even danger). In Florence Klotz’s pretty, long, floaty pastel tunics, the women alternate between a kind of jerky austerity – parallel legged walking and pausing, arms carving out deliberately rigid positions – and bursts of buzzing activity, bursting into storms of bends in chain or swirling in paddle. spins or bustles about the stage in energetic caracoles. Pianists Ciro Foderé and Francisco Rennó, performing Debussy’s “Six Epigraphs Antiques” and flautist Linda Toote, performing Debussy’s “Syrinx”, accompany the dancers with intimate intensity.
This musical sensibility is present even when the pit swells with the orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, the score for Balanchine’s 1934 ‘Serenade’, the first ballet the St. Petersburg-born choreographer composed upon his arrival. in the USA. This week’s performances mark the first performance of this iconic gem at the Pillow, thanks to another aspect of the Ted Shawn Theater renovations, the stage expansion. Even so, it’s a perfect fit during the large female ensemble sections, as ingenious patterns and formations appear and dissolve, the dancers sweeping the stage and each other with straight-line precision belied by the soft clouds of their long tulle skirts (designed by the incomparable Karinska) and the apparent calm of the dancers. It was a model of the famous daring and unrestrained dance on which Balanchine insisted.
The leads in Wednesday’s performance were also concentrated. Taylor Naturkas crossed the stage with searing clarity, like the eye of a storm. Tricia Albertson bustled as a woman who waltzes, dreamily, with a man (Renan Cerdeiro) before being drawn into a feverish (but beautiful) kind of nightmare, when Jordan-Elizabeth’s wily angel/devil character Long brings another man (Chase Swatosh) into the mix. Cerdeiro and Swatosh are both exceptional partners and beautiful dancers themselves. Towards the end of the dance, Long and Swatosh briefly switch to melodrama, but otherwise the performance of this (one of my desert island ballets) was enthralling.
Cerdeiro’s passion, both physically and artistically, throughout “Serenade” was striking, even in large group movements, when one could, in such a crowd, get away with doing a little less. He seemed to do more and more, as if drawn to the drama of the movement, the music – hitting his glorious arabesque line again and again, before sprinting offstage with searing passion. In “Geta,” Armas’ tribute to Geta Constantinescu set to Nina Simone’s deeply melancholy rendition of Jacques Brel’s song “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” Cerdeiro eschews sentimentality, infusing the mix of explosive throws and anguished squats with the same sincere depth.
That dancers excel in the works of Balanchine and Robbins is no surprise: Miami City Ballet is one of a small cohort of ballet companies that have spun off directly from the Balanchine/Robbins mothership, the New York City Ballet. Founded by former City Ballet star Edward Villella, the company has been under the direction of another City Ballet principal dancer, Lourdes Lopez, for ten years now. (Congratulations, Mrs. Lopez!) That the company also triumphed in Graham’s 1948 “Diversion of Angels” is a testament to the direction of Peggy Lyman Hayes and Peter Starling, and also to the technical prowess of those dancers, yes, but above all for their deep devotion to their profession.
It takes years for a dancer to absorb the specifics of a particular style, and it is therefore not an easy task for dancers not trained by Graham, however exceptional they may be, to approach a work of such difficulty. delusional like “Angels”. Miamians dive into this world of contractions and strikingly stylized physicality with seemingly fearless resolve, so that, once again, the work itself is honored. The few wobbles – maybe it’s Graham’s ode to the different stages of love, but it’s not, technically speaking, for the faint-hearted – are easily forgiven in this otherwise powerful performance. As in “Serenade”, the protagonists – Dawn Atkins and Swatosh, the majestic “Couple in White”; Katia Carranza and Steven Loch, the “Couple in Red” enthusiast; and Juliet Hay and Ariel Rose, the playful and youthful “Couple in Yellow” – are matched by the “Chorus”. Ellen Grocki, Petra Love, Nicole Stalker, Matilda Solis and Julian Goodwin-Ferris (the latter is often joined by the three leading men, borrowed from their duo duties) come in and out with stunning, continuous energy. That’s how the program started, with a home run; the hits kept coming.DANCE REVIEWWho: Miami City Ballet
Where: Ted Shawn Theatre, Jacob’s Pillow, 358 George Carter Road, Becket
When: Until August 28
Performances: 8 p.m., August 26 and 27; 2 p.m., August 27 and 28
Tickets: $65 — $85
Reservations and information: 413-243-9919, jacobspillow.org