There are many reasons to rejoice in Miami City Ballet's second program of the season, called "See the Music," but chief among them is this: the company premiere of Nacho Duato's Jardí Tancat. It is a gem, a major addition to the company repertory, and above all it is beautiful.
Flanked by a Balanchine classic as well as by other new and recent works, the program opened at the Arsht Center last weekend, and continues at the Broward Center Jan. 24 to 26 and at the Kravis Center in Palm Beach from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2. It's a hit.
Jardí Tancat is the Catalan choreographer's first ballet, created for the Nederlands Dans Theater in 1983. The influence of his mentors Maurice Béjart and Jiří Kylian is a happy one, and Duato's transformation of their theatricality is a miracle. Jardí Tancat may be the epitome of European modern ballet -- barefoot, earthy yet somehow still classical -- but Duato came back home with this one, to his native Valencia in Spain. This is ballet with a Spanish accent.
The dance is set to five Catalan folk songs recorded by Maria del Mar Bonet, a protest singer who defied the Franco regime by singing in her native Catalan, a language forbidden for decades by the fascist dictator. The songs themselves are heartbreaking, from a simple "Water, we asked for water/but God you gave us wind," to a mad woman's lament for a lover lost at sea. Jardí Tancat means "closed garden" in Catalan, and in Duato's garden of life, six barefoot dancers move within barren fence posts upstage, ensembles fluidly changing from solos to duets, from melancholy to improbable joy. Duato's language seems at once ritualized and natural. His steps ring true.
The piece flattered the MCB dancers, who took to it with authority and ease. Emily Bromberg and Andrei Chagas, Leigh-Ann Esty and Chase Swatosh, Leanna Rinaldi and Shimon Ito, all made the most of this chance to expand their art and give back a sense of adventure and truth on stage that are very rare indeed. MCB Director Lourdes López is putting her mark on the company in her first full season as artistic director, and the choice of this ballet so far from the company's comfort zone is a daring and happy one.
The rest was fine, often more. George Balanchine's 1941 Concerto Barocco was that genius' bridge-burning break with the theatrical Russian tradition, in which he had grown up. Set to Bach, danced in practice clothes, and plotless, the piece defines neo-classicism to the point that the Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo satirized its complex tangles of arms and legs in their all-male drag Go for Barocco. Miami City Ballet has a way with Balanchine that historically has rivaled Balanchine's own company, and the Miamians' Concerto Barocco is delicious.
Katia Carranza and Jennifer Lauren had both speed and gorgeous lines. The sole man, Reyneris Reyes, kept his innate bravura under control and was downright serene in his partnering. The corps de ballet, eight women who never leave the stage, were carefully rehearsed save perhaps for some of the arm positions near the end. They also managed to be sensual amid Balanchine's cool geometries. Like Duato's Jardí Tancat, let's hope Concerto Barocco never leaves the MCB repertory.
Justin Peck's 2013 Chutes and Ladders, introduced here last season, is a little hothouse flower of Balanchinean neo-classicism. It suffered a bit from being danced alongside the real thing, but Sara Esty and Renan Cerdeiro made a good case for it. The ballet also made for a welcome addition to the Benjamin Britten centennial celebrations: It is set to the first movement of the composer's 1941 String Quartet No. 1 (composed, as it happens, about the same time that Balanchine made his Concerto Barocco).
Alexei Ratmansky's rambunctious 2012 Symphonic Dances, set to Sergey Rachmaninoff's 1941 score of that name, brought a dash of old-school Bolshoi oomph, tempered by the choreographer's promiscuous eclecticism. It showed off the whole company in style and closed the program with a smile.
Miami City Ballet's Program II, "See the Music," continues at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale, from Jan.24 to 26; and moves to the Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach, from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2. Visit miamicityballet.org.
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