Dance Through the Ages at Ziff Ballet Opera House with Miami City Ballet

A sleepwalker, cowboy, and a baker's dozen walk into a saloon... Actually, they walk into the Ziff Ballet Opera House starting this Friday as the Miami City Ballet celebrates 25 years of dance with its second program of the 2011 season. The MCB Program II will feature three pieces -- two well known and one a premiere for the company - that take us on a dance through the ages.

First for the premiere: Twyla Tharp's Baker's Dozen, where that number of dancers will twist and twirl and clamber all over each other to 1920s piano music (by Willie "The Lion" Smith), evoking a flapper-esque, speak-easy time.

As principal dancer Jennifer Kronenberg puts it, the performance is "a kinda jazzy, quick piece." This will be a first outing for her, too, as she's never performed the quirky Dozen before. "It's comedic, and we have a great rapport established with Francisco [Renno] on the piano," she says. Although Tharp didn't come down for the performance, the piece was left in the hands of experienced Tharp repetiteur Elaine Kudo to orchestrate.

Kronenberg --one of our 100 Creatives--will be working on pointe in all three performances, starting with La Sonnambula (The Sleepwalker), George Balanchine's classic Romantic-era tale of intrigue, passion, and, yes, sleepwalking, set during a masked ball where something sinister this way certainly comes. Rest assured Kronenberg won't be sleep walking - in fact her eyes were wide open when working with former dancer Allegra Kent, who danced opposite MCB founder and director Edward Villella on numerous original Balanchine productions back in the day. Kent came down to coach several ballerinas this season, "so it was great to have her helping us, since she was the most famous 'sleepwalker,'" enthuses Kronenberg. "It's one of her most famous roles."

Off go the masks out come the cowboy hats for another Balanchine great, Western Symphony. Reflecting the choreographer's love for wild west trappings and its anything-goes zeitgeist, the Symphony features cowhands and their gals along with more piano tunes played by Renno, this time with a saloon-style flair.

This program's mix of ballet classics and new direction are keeping Kronenberg on her toes, she says. "This is my 16th year with the company. I really didn't have an idea of what I was getting myself into," she reminisces. But it's giving her stamina for more. "I just want to keep going strong in 2011; keep growing, keep getting better -- and keep dancing as much as I can."

Miami City Ballet's Program II starts at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Ziff Ballet Opera House (1300 NE Biscayne Blvd., Miami). Tickets run from $19 to $169.  Call 305-929-7010 or visit miamicityballet.org. Program II continues January 14-16 at the Broward Center (201 S.W. Fifth Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale) and January 28-30 at the Kravis Center (701 Okeechobee BoulevardÿWest Palm Beach). Call (305) 929-7010 or visit www.miamicityballet.org .

--Nelson Hernandez

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