There's no doubt that Miami City Ballet is graceful. The debut this weekend of "Viscera," a new work by choreographer Liam Scarlett, proves the company has guts. The 25-year-old choreographer with Britain's Royal Ballet created the piece specifically for MCB dancers by channeling the power of the principal women.
On opening night, the always stunning Jennifer Kronenberg, partnered by her real-life love Carlos Miguel Guerra in the central pas de deux, revealed a new level of emotional intensity as she balanced precariously across his shoulders or pressed her cheek against his back.
"Viscera" also features a second leading lady, dancing solo. In this role, Jeanette Delgado, who often tempers her physical strength with an eager-to-please smile, unleashed her full power. So arresting is her presence that all eyes are upon her, even when she stands perfectly still, wrapped in her own arms, while the corps spins and leaps around her.
Scarlett showed the same attention to detail in setting the work to Lowell Liebermann's "Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra, opus 12." The 13 dancers in the corps, moving in unison, canon, or counterpoint, drew out startling moments in the music with unexpected gestures: accenting a burst of brass with a windmill of the arms or a flourish of reeds with a microbend of the knee.
The rest of the program highlighted Scarlett's accomplishment by clearly showing the tradition from which he emerges. Like "Viscera," Jerome Robbins' "In the Night" (1970) and George Balanchine's "Ballet Imperial" (1941) showcase women's strength in exquisite relationship to piano-driven music (played masterfully here by Francisco Rennó).
The casting played up the resonances, as Kronenberg and Guerra were coupled in a Robbins' pas de deux that showed a more conventional view of romantic love, but anticipated Scarlett's daring lifts.
The show-closer, Balanchine's "Ballet Imperial," also features duo leading ladies, one attended by a cavalier, the other dancing solo. Here Balanchine paid homage to the 19th Century Russian choreographer Petipa, as Scarlett appears to pay homage to Balanchine.
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This was all the more striking on opening night as Jeanette Delgado and Mary Carmen Catoya played the dual leading ladies in "Ballet Imperial." For Balanchine, Delgado was beaming again. Both women showed off their strength. Just like in "Viscera," one of the leading ladies was surrounded by the corps. This time Catoya was hidden by 16 ballerinas, who passed in front and behind her in straight lines across the stage. But when the corps parted, Catoya whipped through a series of fouette turns like a small, smiling tornado. Here was the tradition, and the power, and the presence, that inspired Scarlett.
Miami City Ballet Program II continues at 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 7 and 2 p.m. on Sunday, January 8 at the Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 NE Biscayne Boulevard, Miami; January 27-29 at the Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Boulevard, West Palm Beach; and February 3-5 at the Broward Center, 201 S.W. Fifth Avenue, Fort Lauderdale. For tickets call 877-929-7010 or visit miamicityballet.org.
--Celeste Fraser Delgado, artburstmiami.com