It's been a season of firsts since the opening of the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts. On the heels of the Miami debut of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, one of the finest stagings of Swan Lake in the world will have its local premiere. While the Merce in Miami series was new because no one had thought to do it until now, the American Ballet Theatre's Swan Lake had to wait until now because, until this season, Miami didn't have a place to put it. This lavish production, with huge, elegant sets by Zack Brown, did not fit in any of Miami's theaters until the Carnival Center's state-of-the-art Ziff Opera House opened its doors.
This Swan Lake is worth the wait: It's one big, gorgeous show, an amazing piece of theater as well as dance. Yes, it's about swans. But it's also about life's vital questions love and death, fidelity and betrayal, uncertainty and hope made meaningful through music and movement of a kind we are unlikely to experience anywhere else. "It is about the terrible choices we face," says Kevin McKenzie, ABT's artistic director who lovingly restored the sublime narrative pantomime passages even as he streamlined the action to thriller speed. "Swan Lake is not just a fairy tale."
The McKenzie Swan Lake promises to be the dance event of the season, and perhaps the start of an annual tradition. The Concert Association of Florida's president, Judy Drucker, makes no secret of the fact that she would like ABT, which has just been designated by Congress as "America's National Ballet Company," to appear in Miami every season. "Miami is a vibrant city, rich in cultural and ethnic diversity," says McKenzie. "In many ways, Miami's multicultural in particular Latin population mirrors ABT's own demographic."
In addition to the usual American and Russian superstars, the Miami run boasts a hot-blooded opening duo of Argentina's Paloma Herrera and Brazil's Marcelo Gomes. Saturday night's gala has the exquisite Julie Kent as the Swan Queen opposite Jose Manuel Carreño, Cuba's and arguably the world's finest classical male dancer. To experience them and other ABT dancers in McKenzie's Swan Lake is to witness a company in its prime, sure of its identity and purpose, eager to entertain and move us. It's been a long time coming.
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