Performing Arts: Dance
April 20, 2016
Miami City Ballet has enjoyed successful seasons in New York City in recent years, but this visit has really made a mark. Lourdes Lopez, the former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet who took over from company founder Edward Villela in 2012, has brought the company to her old stomping grounds, and they look great.

To dance the Balanchine repertory in the house of Balanchine requires an absolute confidence in the technique and stylistic integrity of the company, and this group has it in spades. There is a thrill that comes with seeing that impossibly long line of women in white leotards as the curtain rises in Symphony in Three Movements (1972) – modern-day "wilis" about to unleash the power of their dancing to Stravinsky’s eponymous score. There is plenty of strident, propulsive movement, sharp angular arms interspersed with leg swings where the foot almost touches the back of their heads. These women kick, lunge and casually jog around the stage in straight lines, like a highly choreographed army on the attack. The three solo women, Nathalia Arja, Patricia Delgado, and Ashley Knox wear different shades of pink, but it was easy to distinguish them through their dancing: Arja has a sharp attack and a jump that hangs in the air; Delgado is more lyrical, and Knox is petite and precise. The whole company danced the work with assurance and panache.

Twyla Tharp’s Sweet Fields is utterly different in feel – meditative rather than action-packed. The music (hymns from William Billings, the Shaker tradition, and the Sacred Harp) gives it a spiritual atmosphere, where they dance with a tame, modern dance vocabulary. The Norma Kamali costumes – loose, open white silk shirts and pants for the men, and flowing open robes, with tight shorts and tops underneath for the women – are sexy and free, not what we would associate with the devout, celibate Shakers. Nonetheless, there is some communal or religious imagery here, as one man is held aloft by other men, arms extended out, and of course, shaking hands and happy dancing for a finale.

Sweeping drama and large crowds run through Alexei Ratmanksy’s Symphonic Dances, to Rachmaninoff’s Opus 45, commissioned by Villela in 2012. From the use of grand symphonic music to the semi-narrative driven choreography, one can’t help but think of the influence that Leonide Massine has exerted on Ratmansky (Ratmansky revived Massine works while he was artistic director of the Bolshoi). Ratmansky seems to have an endless supply of imaginative movement and complex structures to draw on, but this ballet was infused with a dramatic undercurrent that keeps your interest, but never crystalizes. The strange costuming by Adeline Andre and Istvan Dohar (hoodies with black smudges on the back for a group of men, baggy dresses for the women, or two different dancers that were marked by a red star bulls-eye on their backs, at different times) confused rather than clarified the drama; only in the second movement can we tell they are at a ball, with diaphanous dresses and outsized corsages as clues. Nonetheless, this ballet is a wonderful vehicle for Jeanette Delgado, whose dramatic dancing and abandon were riveting, and the electric and exciting Nathalia Arja, (spoiler alert!) whose dive into the arms of a man from halfway across the stage at the end gave the ballet a satisfying, exhilarating conclusion.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Niciole Duffy Robertson

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