Tricia Albertson and Reyneris Reyes were incredible in Christopher Wheeldon's "Polyphonia" pas de duex.
Imagine New York City Ballet as a chamber company – a small band of fiercely talented dancers who can whip off anything in the big ensemble’s repertoire.
Then you are imagining Miami City Ballet. The company is proving its mettle this week at Jacob’s Pillow as the 85th season’s opener. And it’s a delight display of staple choreography by George Balanchine, Peter Martins and Christopher Wheeldon.
This expertise should come as no surprise as the company was founded by City Ballet superstar Edward Villella. Yet the Miami crew has been elevated to another level with the leadership of Lourdes Lopez, yet another former City Ballet principal known for not only for her steely technique, but her dazzle. She has clearly transferred this same passion to her Miami dancers.
The evening opened with Balanchine’s “Allegro Brilliante,” which is set to Tchaikovsky’s Third Piano Concerto, Op. 75 – Unfinished. As the curtain was raised, the dancers were already swirling in its peach and blue Karinska-designed costumes.
Two things caught the eye immediately – the dancers’ unity, they moved as one, and their footwork. The petit allegro was swift, precise and refreshing. The ballet, led by Jennifer Lauren and Renan Cerdeiro, hypnotizes with its whirlwind of geometric patterns that form, dissolve and reshape in starbursts, lines and circles. Together, the fine dancing and the design make for a foolproof winner.
The unity in dancing was also emphasized in Wheeldon’s shadowy “Polyphonia,” to the strange piano piece by Gyorgy Ligeti, played live by Francisco Renno. Designed for four couples, the ballet takes the viewers through the contortions of music with sharp shapes and syncopated moves that gather the audience’s intense interest.
Of course, one can’t help but be nostalgic for Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto, the original dancers in the 2001 work. But Tricia Albertson and Reyneris Reyes were perfect in the roles. The tone and eeriness of the pas de deux was preserved; and in the small Ted Shawn Theatre, heightened.
Sandwiched between these two marvelous ballets was Martins’ “Barber Violin Concerto.” I must admit, it’s not one of my favorites. It features a classical couple juxtaposed to a contemporary one who then switch off with varying degrees of success.
What made last night’s airing of the ballet a treat was the dancing of Nathalia Arja who relished her role as the spritely modern female who does her best to awaken the staid and dreamy Rainer Krenstetter.
One of the reasons I don’t like this ballet as their section together feels too violent, especially when he chops off her head with a swipe of his arm – twice. But Arja more than held her own, unharmed by the cavalier’s obvious annoyance of her spirit and stamina. That was clear in the smile that she couldn’t hold back through the entire dance and the curtain call.
She and Miami City Ballet are a joy that should be experienced.