In a single weekend, we will be able to see two of this country's reputable dance companies, both selecting ballets made in the United States and in a variety of American styles, in one Broward setting.
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is offering a ticket deal -- $99 to see both companies on two separate days. And, like many things American, each of the five ballets delivers a distinctive taste, influenced by a worldly palette. The red hot contemporary Trey McIntyre Project (TMP) will perform three of McIntyre's ballets, flavored by traditional Basque dancing, Shakespeare and more, Friday and Saturday at the Center's Amaturo Theater. South Florida's Miami City Ballet will present repertory of George Balanchine, founder of the New York City Ballet, and Jerome Robbins, best known for his Broadway choreography, Friday through Sunday at the Au-Rene Theater.
Local dance-goers might already have plans to see MCB, which conducts four programs plus The Nutcracker annually at the Broward Center (it will be in Miami at the Arsht Center May 3 through 5). They might also be familiar with the 10-member TMP, who performed there last year, led by the much sought-after choreographer McIntyre, who has created works for ballet companies from Moscow to Santiago, New York to Chicago. Seeing both in one weekend, a viewer can observe how choreographers working in the United States have made different soups from the same stock -- the stock, in this case, being classical ballet vocabulary.
Dancer Elizabeth Keller embodies many of dances' histories and experimentations. Born in Dubai to Pittsburgh-native parents, she trained in London at the Royal Academy of Dance and in Houston and Philadelphia. Dancing with MCB for 10 seasons under founder Edward Villella, she absorbed the speed, clarity and precision of Balanchine technique. Earlier, in Pennsylvania, she fell in love with Balanchine's choreography by working on it with the French ballerina Violette Verdy, an influential mentor. Keller remembers Verdy describing the circular movement rond de jamb in this appealing way: "Stir, stir the chocolate fondu. It's gooey." A striking movement, frappé, was "sharp, sharp like cheddar cheese."
Now in her first season with TMP, Keller challenges her ballet-trained body with new tasks. McIntyre's rigorous choreography includes not only pointe work, but also weighty, grounded movement. Dancers are sometimes called upon to rotate their legs externally, as in ballet, but Keller now must also engage other bodies parts to work in a parallel stance. Additionally, Keller says, McIntyre "encourages us to be present and almost, in a way, vulnerable," both in the studio and on stage. In rehearsal for Queen of the Goths (2007), loosely based on Titus Andronicus, McIntyre pushed Keller to investigate each moment and detail of choreography -- "It has to mean something, it has to cost you something," she recalls him saying about a series of gestures by her character, Tamora, who unwittingly eats a meat pie made from the remains of two of her slain sons.
MCB's offering of Balanchine's burlesque Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1968), based on the 1936 musical On Your Toes, tells a lighter story. And Robbins' elegant Dances at a Gathering (1969) depicts human relationships through the physical expression of Chopin's music. Keller says that, like Robbins, McIntyre encourages his dancers to engage with one another on stage, drawing the audience into their world and stirring their imaginations.
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McIntyre's Pass, Away, commissioned by the Broward Center and premiering this weekend, and Arrantza (2010), join Queen of the Goths on the TMP program.
This is the deal: for $99, you choose one night in an orchestra seat to see TMP, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday or Saturday; one night day or night to see MCB, on Friday at 8:00 p.m., or Saturday and Sunday at either 2:00 or 8:00 p.m. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 S.W. Fifth Ave., Ft. Lauderdale; for tickets call 954-462-0222.
--Emily Hite, artburstmiami.com