Miami City Ballet shows great artistic range in witty, romantic dances

Posted: 2:38 p.m. Saturday, January 30, 2016

As South Floridians, we have quite a bit to be thankful for — the greatest weather going, beautiful flora and fauna and, of course, the beach. And let’s not forget the world-class ballet company Miami City Ballet.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary season, Miami City Ballet presents Program Two at the Kravis Center with a powerhouse program of three works: George Balanchine’s La Source, Peter Martins’ Barber Violin Concerto and Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room.

The company shows great artistic range, deft direction and curatorial savvy. It also doesn’t hurt to see a packed house give a well-deserved standing ovation.

As a dance-maker, Balanchine remains without peer. His work is literally as close to perfect as it gets. La Source is Balanchine at his most sophisticated and witty. A beautiful essay in mannered French classicism, La Source is set to selections by Leo Delibes and is simply structured: pas de duex, solo, solo, ensemble, repeat. Both of the pas de duex are witty and romantic without ever falling into cutesy or sappy.

The principal couple, Tricia Albertson and Renato Penteado, work wonderfully well together to make the lovely, circular dancing look easy and spontaneous. Penteado is exceptionally brilliant in his solo variations. The ensemble is led by stalwart firebrand Leanna Rinaldi.

Barber Violin Concerto is no stranger to Palm Beach County audiences. This 1988 dance was one of several Peter Martins dances acquired by the now-defunct Ballet Florida during the tenure of ballet master Steven Caras. The premise is simple. There are two couples: one ballet, the other, “modern dance.” Each is costumed as per their genre.

What follows is arguably the strongest dancing of the evening. Principal Simone Messmer dances in a space of her own creation. She is perfectly matched for every aspect of this role. Chase Swatosh, while technically still a member of the Corps de Ballet, handles his principal role with finished maturity.

Twyla Tharp’s 1986 masterwork, In the Upper Room, has been part of the Miami City Ballet repertory for nine years. The dance holds up well with its ‘80s coolness and offhand virtuosity. It is nice to see the company dive headlong into a large-scale group vehicle. This work is also wonderfully danced, although at times it’s a bit choreographically homogeneous. Still, technically, and with Tharp’s highly idiosyncratic, thrown-away style, the performance is right on target.

The fairly recent changing of the guard at Miami City Ballet is no secret, and has had much (too much) written about it. Let’s just say the company is clearly in the very capable hands of artistic director Lourdes Lopez.

Program Two will go on stage at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Kravis Center.