Saturday, October 23, 2004

Balanchine and Sinatra Tribute (Miami City Ballet)

Miami City Ballet captivates State Theatre audience

Miami City Ballet is among the largest ballet companies in the United States. It has 48 dancers and a yearly budget of just under $10 million. Anyone seeing the program they presented at the State Theatre from October 21-24 would immediate know why MCB is also noted as being a world class production company.

MCB has four home counties in South Florida: Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Collier (on Florida's west coast).

Edward Villella, the company’s founding Artistic Director was the first American-born male star of the New York City Ballet . He is credited with establishing the male's role in classical dance in the U.S. Villella’s influence permeates the company...creativity, discipline, fine training and a balanced company which features dancers, not stars. Anyone seeing the company will be awed by the quality of the male dancers. Most companies are happy to have one or two fine males. Their local showing reflects the high quality of their large stable of male dancers .

Mr. Villella's vision and style for the company is based on the techniques established by choreographer George Balanchine who believed all the attention should be placed on the dancers and not on sets and other visually distractions. Two of the selections danced in MCB’s Cleveland program were Balanchine inspired.

The program opened with ‘BALLO DELLA REGINA’ a slight tale of a fisherman’s (Mikhail Ilyin) search for the perfect pearl (Mary Carmen Catoya). The corps of females, dressed in short aqua flowing dresses, were beautifully framed against an aqua-lit backdrop. The flowing movements and the light and airy music by Verdi were a perfect match. The piece was highlighted by a well-disciplined female corps whose timing was impeccable. Ilyin was light on his feet and his unusual bent knee leaps were done effortlessly. Catoya moved with grace and accomplished the difficult double toed point work with competence. The couple partnered beautifully, giving the illusion of a true emotional bonding. Demi-solos by Kristen Kramer, Callie Manning, Tricia Albertson and Patricia Delgado were well performed.

‘NINE SINATRA SONGS,’ the second offering, was choreographed by Twyla Tharp. Anyone who has seen a production of ‘MOVING OUT,’ which is soon to be seen in Cleveland as part of the Broadway Series, will again become aware of Tharp’s genius for blending pop music and modern ballet movements into a delectable dance experience. Be aware, as with ‘MOVING OUT,’ that the words to the song are not being interpreted in the movements. It’s the attitude of the music that holds court. Highlight segments of ‘NINE SINATRA SONGS,’ are “Somethin’ Stupid,” which featured Tricia Albertson and Luis Serrano (who is not only a wonderful dancer, but a rubber-faced comedian); “My Way” in both its renditions; and “All the Way” featuring Deanna Seay and Mikhail Nikitine. The segment’s conclusion evoked bravos from the audience.

“STRAVINSKY VIOLIN CONCERTO” was a hit on two levels. Gabriel Bolkosky’s violin solo rendition of “Violin Concerto in D” by Igor Stravinsky was superb. Balanchine’s choreography, as restaged by Bart Cook and Maria Calegari, was perfectly executed. Balanchine’s signature flipped wrists, angled heads, hip moves and pronounced gestures were all in place. The duet sections as performed by Deanna Seay, Isanusi Garcia-Rodriguez, Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra showed clearly what happens when finely trained and talented dancers and quality choreography combine. As was the case the entire evening, the male dancers, as well as the female performers, were excellent, especially in their execution of some very difficult leaps.

The only weakness of the program was pickup orchestra under the direction of Akira Endo. They were ragged in places, especially at the very start of the program when the players entered at different times, throwing off the timing of the dancers. There were also some jarring gaffs by individual instruments throughout the evening, especially by the brass and strings.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: “BALANCHINE AND SINATRA TRIBUTE,’ as executed by the Miami City Ballet was a total audience pleaser. It would be wonderful if the company added our fair city as its fifth home. We could use such consistently wonderful programs as MCB stages. Or, at the least, it would be nice to know that MCB would become a permanent part of the Playhouse Square Center’s Ballet Series.