Miami City Ballet is performing George Balanchine's "Serenade" this week at Jacob's Pillow. It featured on Wednesday night, from left, Hannah Fischer, Samantha Hope Galler, Ariel Rose and Ashley Knox. (Photo by Christopher Duggan)
For those of you who are missing the old days when New York City Ballet spent more than a few days in the region each summer, it’s time to take a trip over to Jacob’s Pillow to see Miami City Ballet.
Certainly, Miami doesn’t have the same scope or history of City Ballet. But they do have the warmth and the chops to perform what local balletomanes long for -- George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. And the Pillow is a gracious host, one that is so commitment to the art that it renovated its main stage at the Ted Shawn Theatre to install an orchestra pit this year.
Musicians filled the pit for the first time Wednesday night for the Miami dancers who did not disappoint with their renderings of Balanchine monumental “Serenade” and a moving world premiere by Margarita Armas. The company, as directed by former City Ballet principal Lourdes Lopez, also danced Martha Graham’s “Diversion of Angels” and Robbins’ “Antique Epigraphs.”
“Serenade” was the evening’s knockout. On the smaller intimate stage, the ballet that is cast in a cloud of blue grew in power. Every nuance, the flick of the feet to first position and then in tendu, the turning of the ballerina on her one leg and the melting of the arm over tilted, inquisitive heads, felt enlarged. And thus the beauty, the sadness, the romance and the final ascent to the heaven was also elevated, suspending time and whisking its audience away to another otherworldly dimension.
The orchestra in the pit, performing the Tchaikovsky score with both tenderness and verve, sounded wonderful in the theater. It leaves one hoping that the Pillow, which sought extra donations in order to host Miami City Ballet there, can do the same with other important companies. The live music was expensive, but it added so much.
Interestingly, the Debussy flute and pianos carried Robbins’ “Antique Epigraphs,” which is new to the company. While the flutist Linda Toote and pianists Francisco Renno and Ciro Fondere enchanted, the dancing failed to call forth the plasticity necessary to portray Greek bas reliefs coming to life.
Still the ballet looked beautiful with the all-female cast dressed in long, sheer, sepia-toned tunics with side lighting by Jennifer Tipton that made the dancers glow.
More absorbing was Armas’ “Geta.” Set to Nina Simone’s rendering of “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” the solo featured Renan Cerdeiro appeared to grasp onto a lost cause. It was poignant, heart-felt and Cerdiero cut a striking, sympathetic and memorable figure.
Graham’s “Diversion of Angels,” set to music by Norman Dello Joio, was both a surprise and a triumph. Graham’s works are notoriously difficult for anyone not trained in her technique. Still, the dancers, especially Dawn Atkins and Chase Swatosh in white, were strong and solid, holding endless, difficult poses, among those who frolic with the angels.
Miami City Ballet performs at the Pillow through Sunday. It’s a must-see performance.